Regarded by Egyptians as sacrosanct, the armed forces nonetheless still use the same old methods of censorship and intimidation. The SCAF takeover after Mubarak’s departure served only to further enshrine the position of the military. The Council has not only perpetuated Hosni Mubarak’s ways of controlling information, but has strengthened them further.
Numerous journalists and bloggers seeking to expose the abuses committed by certain elements of the Army and the military police during the pro-democratic uprising have been prosecuted before military courts, and some have been jailed for several months. The SCAF has affirmed that it will show “no tolerance for insults [against itself].”
Since the legislative elections last November, Reporters Without Borders has noted no further increase in abuses. However, vigilance is still required since power has not yet been handed over to civilians.
The blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad was the first prisoner of conscience of the post-Mubarak era. He was arrested in March last year and sentenced in April to a three-year prison term for having published a report on his blog questioning the alleged neutrality of the army during the demonstrations in January and February 2011. He was pardoned on 12 January this year, the day before the first anniversary of the revolution.
Another target was the blogger Asmaa Mahfouz, a recipient of the Sakharov Prize who was threatened with trial by military court for insulting the SCAF.
During the riots in Cairo’s Maspero district on 9 and 10 October last year, the army stormed the head offices of the television stations Al-Hurra and Channel January 25 located nearby while they were reporting on the disturbances. The troops halted the broadcasts and threatened journalists. It also temporarily cut off the electricity, telephones lines and Internet connection in the offices of the newspaper Al-Shorooq. The blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah was detained for nearly two months for refusing to respond to allegations of incitement to violence, vandalism and theft of a weapon during the Maspero protests.
During the week before the parliamentary election on 28 November last year, demonstrators calling for the resignation of the SCAF clashed with security forces, mainly in the streets around Tahrir Square. Media workers were again attacked between 16 and 18 December.
As a result of more than 700 complaints from a group calling itself “Young Men and Women for an Honourable Egypt” against 12 well-known figures, the public prosecutor decided on 7 March to refer the cases to military courts. Among the 12 were two journalists from the station ON TV, Rim Magued and Yosri Fouda, activists such as the bloggers Nawara Ngem and Wael Ghoneim, as well as the writer Alaa Al-Aswani. They could face charges of attempting to overthrow the state and damaging the reputation of the armed forces.
State media also launched a smear campaign against US-subsidized Egyptian NGOs that criticized the Supreme Council. The campaign poses a threat to many national human rights organizations.