Press Syndicate demands an end to crackdown on journalists

Egypt’s Press Syndicate has strongly condemned the recent escalation of arrests and assaults against journalists, after a violent 25 January left over a dozen journalists wounded or detained.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the syndicate directly warned the Ministry of the Interior against the unlawful arrests of journalists and against “pitting citizens against journalists with false claims,” while condemning of practices that “bring [Egypt] back to the eras of deposed presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi.”

“The continuation of violence against journalists working in the field, either by security forces or by any political faction… infringes on the freedom of expression, and prevents the Egyptian people from knowing the truth about what’s happening in the streets,” read the statement.

The Press Syndicate claims that live bullets were used to target journalists, including syndicate member and Al-Wafd newspaper photojournalist Mohamed Fawzy, who was shot while covering clashes in Cairo’s Matariya neighbourhood and remains in critical condition.

Hossam Bakir, a photojournalist for newspaper El-Badil, was shot in the abdomen by security forces while covering clashes, requiring emergency surgery.

Also on Tuesday, media freedoms watchdog Committee to Protect Journalist released a statement detailing multiple offenses against journalists during clashes and protests on 25 January, both by security forces and demonstrators.

According to the statement, 12 journalists were detained by police while working on 25 January, and several others were the victims of violent assaults by demonstrators.

All but one of the journalists detained were released on Saturday.  El-Badil journalist Karim El-Behairy is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at police and is being detained pending an investigation by the prosecutor.

“None of the governments who have come to power in Egypt since the 2011 uprising have delivered on their promises to respect freedom of the press,” said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa coordinator for CPJ. “It is difficult to see how the country could achieve anything like democracy when it is one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists to do their jobs.”

The recent rash of violence against journalists and arrests comes among a wider, systematic crackdown on media freedom.  Since Morsi’s, several dissenting television stations have been ordered closed by the government.  Al Jazeera has been a frequent target, with a series of arrests and raids on their offices.  Five Al Jazeera journalists are currently in prison.

According to earlier CPJ reports, Egypt in one of the top ten jailors of journalists, and is the third deadliest country for journalists after Syria and Iraq.

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