New Press Law Enacted as Media Crackdown Continues
The decision by Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to bar pre-trial detention for members of the media is ‘window dressing’ designed to draw attention away from the broader campaign against freedom of the press and free expression in Egypt, where journalists still face prosecution for writing articles critical of the government. The ongoing move to silence media is reminiscent of tactics employed by former president Hosni Mubarak.
The decree issued by President Morsi forbids “temporary detention” in crimes related to the “press” and “publishing,” and was announced just hours after a court ordered the detention of Islam Afifi, the editor-in-chief of al-Dostour who was accused of ‘insulting’ President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Afifi, who is set to be freed following the decree, is one of two journalists who has faced charges within the last few weeks for criticizing the government.
Egypt is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, and Partly Free in in Freedom of the Press 2012 and in Freedom on the Net 2011. Many of the press laws enacted during the Mubarak-era have yet to be repealed, including Article 179, which criminalizes ‘insulting the president,’ but gives a vague definition for what is an insult. Egyptians have been the victims of an increasing crackdown on public debate as Morsi has demonstrated a negative attitude towards the press, reinstating the Ministry of Information, a ministry viewed as restrictive by many activists, and appointing Muslim Brotherhood member Salah Abdul Maqsoud as the head. Morsi called for the formation of a committee to appoint new heads of state for media outlets, including those sympathetic to the ruling party who sought to remove columns seen as “anti-Muslim Brotherhood.” In this unprecedented crackdown on the media that has occurred in such a short time period, articles have been stopped from going to print, newspapers confiscated and television stations closed.
Freedom in the World 2012: Egypt
Freedom of the Press 2012: Egypt (Draft)
Freedom on the Net 2011: Egypt
Egypt in Transition: An Interview with Nancy Okail (Part 1)
Egypt in Transition: An Interview with Nancy Okail (Part 2)