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Africa

Crimes against journalists: Egyptian media under attack

media President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi surrounded by his generals Reuters

In honour of the first anniversary of the killing of French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, the United Nations has deemed the 2nd of November 2014, as the first International Day to end impunity in crimes against journalists. In the year since they were murdered, their killers remain at large, and journalists worldwide continue to be targeted for simply doing their jobs.

In the case of Egypt, the atmosphere for journalists remains dangerous as the government continues to create an environment that threatens their livelihoods.

Just last week, Sanaa Seif, the editor of the Oscar-nominated documentary ‘The Square’  was sentenced to three years prison on charges of demonstrating. Sanaa is presently on a hunger strike to protest her sentence.

Freelance press photographer, Mahmoud Abu Zied, has been held in detention for the past 14 months without any charges.

And att the same time, three foreign journalists remain in jail, while 11 others were sentenced in absentia to 10 years.

Many more remain targeted or are in jail, but the common theme throughout each case is that the journalists, bloggers and activists all remain vulnerable to the whims of a system and have very little access to recourse.

RFI spoke to Ismail Alexandrani, an Egyptian investigative journalist and human rights activist. He says this international day to end impunity in crimes against journalists resonates loudly in his country.

He explains that there are two elements at play against journalists in Egypt: the government and the pro-government media who effectively control the mainstream media. He credits online journalism --a major resource for the numerous bloggers, activists and journalists--saying “without the internet, without the social media platforms and international media outlets, I don’t think we’d have been heard or been able to speak out or to inform the world [on] what is really going on in Egypt”. He adds “we are in unfriendly, completely unfriendly environment in all aspects of our work”.

Since the fall of the Mubarak regime in 2011, the atmosphere has been on a downward spiral. Many thought the end of Mubarak would have ushered in a new era built on of freedom of speech. “There [are] no standards or norms. Some of our colleagues are in jail for seven or ten years…..we don’t know what to face in moment, in minutes, in a few hours. We are 24/7 at risk”, says Alexandrani. Under the current government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Alexandrani points out that the system is now worse for those working in the media, than was the case under Mubarak.

To listen to the interview

 

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