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Egypt carrying out ‘witch-hunt’ against journalists, report claims

eygptian journalists protesting
Egyptian Press Syndicate members had been holding a sit-in held in solidarity with detained journalists and calling for their release [File photo]

The press freedom situation in Egypt has become more alarming under President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Reporters Without Borders has said in its annual report.

“Egypt is now one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists,” the report wrote: “Some spend years in detention without being charged or tried. Others have been sentenced to long jail terms or even life imprisonment in iniquitous mass trials.”

Sisi Era - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi Era – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

It added: “Since 2013, the authorities have waged a witch-hunt against journalists suspected of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and have orchestrated a ‘Sisification’ of the media.”

“The internet is the only place left where independently-reported information can circulate, but more than 500 websites have been blocked since the summer of 2017 and more and more people are being arrested because of their social network posts.”

READ: Egypt blocks 34,000 websites ahead of vote on constitutional amendments

“An increasingly draconian legislative arsenal poses an additional threat to media freedom. Under a terrorism law adopted in August 2015, journalists are obliged on national security grounds to report only the official version of ‘terrorist’ attacks.”

The report continued: “In 2018, new cyber-crime and media laws enshrined government control over the media and made it possible to prosecute and imprison journalists and close websites for sharing independently-reported information online.”

The international journalist body said that “some news websites chose to shut down rather than try to comply with such repressive legislation”. “Journalists and human rights defenders are meanwhile banned from much of the Sinai region and from providing independent coverage of any military operation,” it added.

READ: Al Jazeera condemns Egypt inclusion of its staff on ‘terror list’

“Coverage of many economic subjects, including inflation and corruption, can also result in imprisonment. The 2018 presidential election intensified the censorship and accelerated the pace with which media outlets are closed.”

“The foreign media are also targeted, with articles being blocked online or attacked by officials, and reporters being expelled or banned from visiting Egypt.”

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