Egypt's crackdown on media sparks conservative backlash
Egypt Egyptâs crackdown on media sparks conservative backlash
Regulator defends pro-state TV host who was briefly detained for allegedly insulting police
Egyptian authorities briefly detained a pro-government TV talkshow host accused of insulting the police, in the latest example of an intensifying crackdown on the media before the countryâs presidential elections.
Egyptâs interior ministry filed a com plaint against Khairy Ramadan, a longstanding supporter of the government, leading him to turn himself in to investigators over the weekend.
Ramadan was accused of disseminating âfake news and statements against the police force, therefore defaming itâ after he anchored an episode of his Egypt Today show on a state television channel, which showed the wife of a police colonel complaining of low wages in the police force.
Ramadan was released on Monday on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (Â£410), according to his lawyer, Taher el-Khouly. The case has not been dropped, and prosecutors can appeal against his release.
Ramadanâs case comes amid a climate of increasing pressure on journalists, with frequent accusations of âfake newsâ levelled at individual reporters and outlets, even those reporting in favour of the state.
The president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, is expected to win the election scheduled for 26-28 March, in which the only challenger is Mousa Mustafa Mousa, who previously campaigned for Sisi before entering the race at the last minute. Five other presidential hopefuls were prevented from getting on the ballot.
The accusations against Ramadan have drawn criticism from other voices normally supportive of the state. âWhat did Khairy Ramadan do?â said Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the supreme council for media regulation, speaking on a show hosted by a pro-government anchor, Lamis Elhadidy. âHe made a mistake. He apologised. Case closed â¦ By doing this we are telling people not to think, not to take the initiative,â he said.
âHe was maybe the journalist who defended the interior ministry the most, out of all of us,â Elhadidy added.
Egyptâs public prosecutor, Nabil Sadek, has previously demanded that his staff monitor news reports about Egypt, urging prosecutors to step up cases against journalists deemed to be disseminating fake news. He said âforces of evilâ had attempted to âundermine the security and safety of the nation through the broadcast and publication of lies and false newsâ.
Last week a reporter, Mai El-Sabagh, and a photographer, Ahmad Mustafa, were detained for 15 days pending investigation over potential charges of âspreading false news that threatens public safetyâ after the pair filmed a report on the history of the tram in the coastal city of Alexandria.
âThe climate couldnât be any worse. This is scary,â said Mahmoud Kamel, a board member of the Egyptian journalistsâ syndicate.
Amr Adeeb, a fiercely pro-state TV anchor, said of the detention of Ramadan, Sabagh, and Moustafa: âThese sorts of cases waste the time of the prosecution. I call on the minister of the interior: we are ready to support you in great things. But this leaves a bad impression.â
Adeeb and his colleagues, however, have stopped short of questioning a crackdown on foreign media.
Even before the election, Egypt had been labelled âone of the worldâs biggest prisons for journalistsâ by the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. âAn increasingly draconian legislative arsenal poses an additional threat to media freedom,â it said.
Adham Youssef contributed to this reportTopics
- Press freedom
- Middle East and North Africa
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