Thursday, June 25, 2015

Press syndicate: worst climate for journalism in Egypt's history

The Egyptian Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday that at least 18 Egyptian journalists are in jail for reasons related to their reporting. The CJP based this on a prison census it conducted on 1 June. It is the highest number of detained journalistsin Egypt since the CPJ began recording data on imprisoned journalists in 1990.
"The threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of an atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics," the CPJ said in a report published on Thursday.
Khaled al-Balshy, the head of the freedoms committee of Egypt's press syndicate, said the number of journalists imprisoned was higher, putting it at more than 30. "We are in the worst climate for journalism in Egypt's history," he told Reuters.
CPJ said most of the journalists imprisoned are accused by the government of belonging to or being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designates as a terrorist group. Authorities say the Brotherhood is a threat to national security.
A government source told Reuters that "the numbers are not accurate and the report is not objective." The source said all imprisoned journalists were facing criminal charges and were not imprisoned for political or free speech reasons.
Several journalists are being held in pretrial detention without a set date for a court hearing, the CPJ reported. "The arrests of journalists in Egypt are often violent and involve beatings, abuse, and raids of their homes and confiscation of their property," the CPJ said. "Their prison cells are often unclean and overcrowded. In letters from prison, some journalists wrote that they often do not see sunlight for weeks; others described the torture of prisoners, including the use of electric shocks."
The government source denied all allegations of torture.
The crackdown on press freedom, which other than imprisonment also includes heavy restrictions on journalists, has left entire regions "severely underreported," CPJ said. This has been most notably the case in the Sinai Peninsula, CPJ said, where the army is battling an insurgency that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi after mass protests against his rule in 2013.
Balshy also noted that "terrorist groups" threatened the lives of any who spoke out against them.
Journalists are regularly denied entry to Sinai at military checkpoints, CPJ said,and local reporters face threats from both the government and militant groups."Journalism is over in the Sinai," CPJ quoted one North Sinai reporter, who declined to be named for security reasons. "The only reporting we can do is (to) tell the army's story. Anything else is a prison wish."
The government source said that when journlasts are denied entry inthe Sinai it is done for security reasons and out of fear for the safety and lives of journalists.

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