Reporters Without Borders hails yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces not to press defamation charges against the blogger Asmaa Mahfouz for comments about the military that she posted on online social networks.
The decision was announced in a communiqué, in which the council urged Egyptians to “express their positions and opinions responsibly, without insult or abuse.”
Leading woman blogger could be tried by court martial over Tweet
Reporters Without Borders condemns a decision by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to prosecute a blogger, Asmaa Mahfouz, over several messages criticizing the council that she posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Agence France-Presse said Mahfouz was to be tried by court martial but Mahfouz said on her Twitter account that she had not yet received a summons and did not know whether she was to be tried by a civilian or military court.
“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces promised on 16 July to stop prosecuting civilians before military courts,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If Asmaa Mahfouz is now to be tried by court martial on a charge of defaming the council, it would violate the principle of due process, as the military would be both judge and plaintiff. We call the immediate withdrawal of all the charges against her.”
Although former President Hosni Mubarak is now being tried, the army forces continues the former regime’s methods of censorship and intimidation, announcing that there will be “no tolerance of insults directed at the armed forces,” a statement worthy of the most authoritarian regimes.
As wells as defaming the Supreme Council, Mahfouz is charged with inciting violence, disturbing public order and spreading false information. In one of her Tweets, she called for more justice: “If justice is not met, no one should be upset if armed gangs take to the streets and carry out a string of assassinations. As long as there is no law, and there is no justice, no one should be upset about anything.”
After being summoned for questioning by the military on 14 August, Mahfouz was released on bail pending trial on a date that is not yet known. According to her lawyers, the large amount of bail demanded – around 3,000 dollars – shows that the court already regards her as guilty.
The case has a disturbing precedent. A court martial sentenced the blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to three years in prison on the same charges on 10 April. Reporters Without Borders calls for an immediate end to these iniquitous trials by military courts, whose verdicts cannot be appealed
Reporters Without Borders wrote to the chairman of the Supreme Council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussain Tantawi, on 1 June urging the military to respect free expression and media freedom and to rein in their increasing authoritarianism and suppression of civil liberties.
Egypt is one of the countries “under surveillance” in the “Enemies of the Internet” list that Reporters Without Borders issued on 12 March.