After six days of demonstrations, President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the armed forces last night in what was a military coup with civilian trappings. In a televised address after the coup, armed forces chief of staff Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was flanked by opposition leader Mohamed El-Baradei and Egypt’s two leading clerics, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar, the country’s leading Sunni authority, and the head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II. President for a year and four days, Morsi has been replaced by Adly Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, who is to be sworn in as acting president today.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the acting president to quickly implement the road map announced by Gen. Sisi so that Egypt does not have undergo a repeat of the authoritarian rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that it endured from Hosni Mubarak’s ouster until Morsi’s election. “Even if the constitution has been suspended, Egypt is a signatory of many international treaties that guarantee fundamental freedoms,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The new civilian-military authorities must respect these international obligations.”
A new constitution that fully respects human rights, including freedom of information, must be adopted as soon as possible. Some of the provisions of the constitution drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood at the end of 2012 must be amended without at the same time giving, either directly or indirectly, excessive powers to the armed forces. Free and democratic presidential and parliamentary elections must be held amid respect for pluralism.
Reporters Without Borders is alarmed to see that the first measures taken by the new authorities included the closure of three TV stations. One was Misr25, a station run by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Freedom party. The other two, Al-Hafiz and Al-Nas, are pro-Salafist and openly supported Morsi. Police occupied the three TV stations on the official grounds of preventing them from broadcasting messages inciting hatred and violence. The news agency MENA said the heads of the three stations were arrested shortly after the announcement of Morsi’s removal and, with the exception of Ahmed Abdel Gawad, were released a few hours later.
“Inaugurating a new era that is supposed to be democratic with such an act of censorship is disturbing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Under the rule of law, a court order should be needed to close a news outlet. We call for the reopening of these three TV stations.” Reporters Without Borders also condemns at last night’s police raid on the premises of Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian news channel, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, in which some of its journalists were briefly arrested.