A week after President Mohamed Morsi’s removal by the military, respect for freedom of information continues to worsen and increasingly resembles the situation under the authoritarian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in 2011. Both Egyptian and foreign journalists have been the victims of violations since 4 July.
Soldiers opened fire on protesters following a pro-Morsi demonstration outside Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo yesterday. According to the public health ministry, 51 people were killed in the shooting, including Ahmed Samir Assem El-Senoussi, a photographer with the newspaper Al-Horreya-Wal-Adalah (Freedom and Justice).
Military barricades across roads leading to the demonstration prevented journalists from covering the events. As CNN reporter Ben Wedeman was doing a live report from Tahrir square, he was cut short by soldiers who confiscated his camera. Soldiers also confiscated equipment and material from a Rassd News team.
Security forces arrested Dirk Emmerich, a German reporter for RTL television, and his crew as they were covering the demonstration and held them for seven hours. At a press conference on 8 July, the army’s spokesman urged “non-Egyptians” including journalists to stay away from demonstrations and military buildings.
News media such as CNN and Al-Jazeera that describe Morsi’s removal as a “military coup” are being subjected to intimidation and censorship by the interim authorities. Several foreign journalists have reported feeling in danger as they continue to work.
Al-Jazeera has been widely accused of “pro-Morsi” bias in its coverage and has, as a result, been nicknamed “Al-Jazeera Ikhwan” (Al-Jazeera Brothers). Police raided the premises of Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian offshoot, Al-Jazeera Mubasher, on 3 July and arrested members of its staff. The head of the station was finally released on 6 July on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (1,100 euros). The head of the Al-Jazeera bureau in Cairo, Cheif Abdelfatah Fayed, was himself briefly arrested on 7 July on charges of disturbing public order and threatening national security. Then Al-Jazeera journalists were expelled from a news conference on 8 July by other journalists, who booed them.
Censorship of the “new opposition” media that support Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood is still in place. The pro-Muslim Brotherhood TV stations – Misr 25 (the Freedom and Justice Party channel), Al-Nas, Al-Hafiz and Al-Rahma – have still not been allowed to resume broadcasting, while the Freedom and Justice Party newspaper has repeatedly been prevented from printing.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the interim authorities to immediately cease arbitrary censorship, arrests of media personnel and denial of access to information. They must respect their own road map and must quickly establish a civilian and democratic government that ensures that everyone, without political distinction, enjoys fundamental freedoms, including the right to information.