TV Satirist's Arrest. Increase in Attack on Journalists
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||3 April 2013|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, TV Satirist's Arrest. Increase in Attack on Journalists, 3 April 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/517646a44.html [accessed 26 September 2016]|
Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns last weekend's interrogation of Bassem Youssef, a popular presenter and satirist on Egypt's CBC television, who is accused of insulting President Morsi and offending Islam. The media freedom organization is also very worried by an increase in cases of physical violence against journalists, which follows months of many judicial proceedings against media personnel. Reporters Without Borders condemns all these abuses and urges the authorities to take measures designed to guarantee the safety of journalists and enable them to work freely.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 14 media personnel were attacked and some were injured while covering anti-government protests outside the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Cairo district of Moqattam on 16 and 17 March. Most of the attackers, who were armed with sticks and knives, were identified by the victims as Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who had arrived in large numbers in order to confront the protesters. Some of the journalists were attacked by police officers.
Media City, the Cairo suburb where the main independent TV stations are based, was besieged on 24 and 25 March by Islamists protesting against "biased" media coverage of protests outside the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters on 22 March. This was the second time that Islamist protesters have overrun Media City. The first was on 17 December 2012. Hundreds of demonstrators blocked the entrances to Media City on 24 March, denying access to journalists and TV studio guests and often using violence. Some of the protesters broke the windows of journalists' vehicles in order to enter the vehicles and harass their occupants. Protesters also entered Media City and chanted slogans threatening journalists and accusing them of insulting President Morsi.
Interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim went to Media City on the evening of 24 March and asked the activists to call off the protest. But the siege resumed on 25 March and continued throughout the day until the authorities sent police reinforcements. The demonstrators finally lifted their siege in the evening, but promised to continue protesting against the Egyptian media. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil's office issued a statement condemning the use of violence.
These incidents have come at a time of great tension. Dozens of people attacked and ransacked the premises of the independent newspaper Al-Watan on 9 March and then set it on fire. A member of the newspaper's staff said the attackers may have been Islamist extremists, but this has not been confirmed.
Increase in judicial proceedings
The increase in violence has been paralleled by an increase in judicial proceedings against journalists and news media. The warrant for the arrest of Bassem Youssef, the host of CBC's satirical programme "El-Bernameg," has highlighted the decline in freedom of information, which was one of the Egyptian people's demands during the 2011 revolution. In response to the warrant, Youssef went to the prosecutor-general's office on 31 March accompanied by a crowd of supporters, and was released on bail of 15,000 Egyptian pounds (1,700 euros) after being questioned for five hours. The prosecutor-general accuses him of insulting and mocking President Morsi on his programme. He is also accused of offending Islam. An additional complaint was brought against him yesterday accusing him of spreading rumours and false information, and disturbing public order. Shayma Abu El-Kir, a journalist who is the Committee to Protect Journalist's Middle East consultant, is meanwhile being investigated for defending Youssef during an interview.
In the past few days, the prosecutor-general has also ordered that three other reporters and current affairs programme hosts - Lamis Al-Hadidi, Amr Adib and Youssef Al-Husseini - should be investigated for "inciting chaos."
"We call for the withdrawal of the proceedings against Bassem Youssef and an end to all the investigations of journalists," Reporters Without Borders said. "We also deplore the constant increase in the number of complaints against journalists, which has shot up since Mohamed Morsi became president. The authorities must finally put a stop to their policy of intimidating the news media."