TIMEP Statement re: Ongoing Crackdown on Journalists in Egypt

05/02/2014 . By TIMEP

TIMEP Expresses Concern over Ongoing Crackdown on Journalists in Egypt as Press Freedom Day Nears

Washington, D.C. – In advance of the 21st anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) expresses its concern over the ongoing crackdown on journalists and press freedom in Egypt. This year, the United Nations has declared that Press Freedom Day will focus on the media’s importance in development, the safety of journalists and the rule of law, and the sustainability and integrity of journalism—all themes that relate directly to the current state of media freedom in Egypt.

In 2013, Egypt ranked 159th out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, putting it slightly above regional neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria, but below Tunisia, Libya, and Turkey. The worsening press freedom climate in Egypt has been punctuated by government raids and closures of news stations; attempts to block satellite signals, and the on-the-job deaths of six journalists in 2013 and violence against many more. Egypt has also arrested dozens of journalists, some of whom are being tried on implausible terrorism charges and are scheduled to have another hearing on World Press Freedom Day.

Despite widespread international condemnation of these abuses, Egypt does not appear to be on a corrective path to address these violations. Although Egypt’s new constitution codifies the right to freedom of the press, the adoption of the document has had little effect on the actual protection of free press rights. In addition to the aforementioned violations, journalists also continue face injury or death while covering events. The government of Egypt recently agreed to provide protective gear to journalists in response to demands by Egypt’s Journalists’ Syndicate—a tacit acknowledgment of the extreme hazards that journalists in Egypt face.

TIMEP condemns the repression of the press in Egypt and calls for the unconditional release of all media workers who have been unjustly detained. TIMEP also calls upon the government of Egypt to create a safe space for journalists in which they are able to do their jobs freely, without risk of harm or arrest. As Egypt’s presidential elections draw near, it is also important that local and international journalists be permitted to cover events and to share and broadcast information during what will hopefully be a free, fair, and open election process. These reforms are critical if Egypt is to achieve a successful democratic transition.

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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.