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Egypt's crackdown on media sparks conservative backlash

Posted by On March 06, 2018

Egypt's crackdown on media sparks conservative backlash

Egypt Egypt’s crackdown on media sparks conservative backlash

Regulator defends pro-state TV host who was briefly detained for allegedly insulting police

People walk underneath an election campaign banner for Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo.
People walk underneath an election campaign banner for Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

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 country’s presidential elections.

Egypt’s 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 “fake news and statements against the police force, therefore defaming it” 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 (£410), according to his lawyer, Taher el-Khouly. The case has not been dropped, and prosecutors can appeal against his release.

Ramadan’s case comes amid a climate of increasing pressure on journalists, with frequent accusations of “fake news” 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. “What did Khairy Ramadan do?” said Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the supreme council for media regulation, speaking on a show hosted by a pro-government anchor, Lamis Elhadidy. “He made a mistake. He apologised. Case closed … By doing this we are telling people not to think, not to take the initiative,” he said.

“He was maybe the journalist who defended the interior ministry the most, out of all of us,” Elhadidy added.

Egypt’s 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 “forces of evil” had attempted to “undermine the security and safety of the nation through the broadcast and publication of lies and false news”.

Last week a reporter, Mai El-Sabagh, and a photographer, Ahmad Mustafa, were detained for 15 days pending investigation over potential charges of “spreading false news that threatens public safety” after the pair filmed a report on the history of the tram in the coastal city of Alexandria.

“The climate couldn’t be any worse. This is scary,” said Mahmoud Kamel, a board member of the Egyptian journalists’ syndicate.

Amr Adeeb, a fiercely pro-state TV anchor, said of the detention of Ramadan, Sabagh, and Moustafa: “These 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.”

Adeeb and his colleagues, however, have stopped short of questioning a crackdown on foreign media.

Even before the election, Egypt had been labelled “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists” by the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. “An increasingly draconian legislative arsenal poses an additional threat to media freedom,” it said.

Adham Youssef contributed to this report

Topics
  • Egypt
  • Press freedom
  • Africa
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • news
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Source: Google News Egypt | Netizen 24 Egypt

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