Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) Condemns wave of complaints against media personnel

Date : Sunday, 22 September, 2013
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AFTE condemns the aggressive attacks on several media personnel during the previous days. Over the past two weeks a series of complaints were made against journalists and media personnel by members of Islamic political groups as well as the president himself, where they were faced with vague accusations such as insult of the president of the republic, defamation of religion and threat to national unity.

Last Sunday, after the conclusion of voting on the new constitution, Cairo prosecution summoned journalists “Ola El Shafei” and “Khaled Salah” to question them regarding a complaint filed against them by the Presidency accusing them of insulting the president on ground of an article written by “El Shafei” in “El Youm El Sabe’e” titled “The marriage of Morsi and Fouada is invalid” (drawing on a movie title in the seventies). The same day the public prosecutor ordered an interrogation with “Ibrahim Eissa” and “General Sameh Seif El Yazal” based on complaints by former “Freedom and Justice” MP “Mamdouh Ismail”, accusing “Eissa” of defamation of Islam in his program “Huna Al Qahira” (Here is Cairo) on the “Al Qahira wal Nas” (Cairo and people) channel. In his complaint he mentioned that on the 29th of November “Eissa” spoke about the president quoting a verse from the Quran, which he ridiculed through verbal and physical gestures. He also accused him of attacking Islam which is the religion of the state as well as public order, the nation’s identity and the religion of the majority of the population.

 

As for the complaint by “Ismail” against “Sameh Seif El Yazal” former general at the general intelligence, he said that on the 1st of December, when “El Yazal” was a guest in the “Behedou'” (Quietly) program hosted by “Emad Adib” he described the one million-man protest around Cairo university of being dangerous, although the Egyptian people had witnessed its peaceful and civilized and decent character, where millions gathered without any single violation. He clearly talked about millions of weapons owned by the political Islam groups which he claimed are being prepared to be used against Egyptians.

He added that “El Yazal” thereby threatened national unity and incited sectors of the Egyptian people against Islamists as well as called for chaos.

 

Within that wave of accusations, standing comedian “Basem Yousef” had his share. Lawyer “Ramdan El Oksori” filed a complaint with the public prosecutor against “Mohamed El Amin” owner of CBC channels as well as “Basem Yousef” accusing them of insult of the president, referring to “Yousef’s” use of media material to ridicule state symbols, foremost Dr. Morsi which constitutes an insult to his dignity in front of Arab and international public opinion and encroaches on his status and prestige as the president of the largest Arab country when he used a pillow, carrying the image of the president.

While AFTE has been monitoring the violations to media freedom since the beginning of the second republic, considers media to be playing the role of the main opposition to the religious dictatorship ruling the country, especially when the media messages are opposed to the views of the ruling regime. Hardly a week passes by without at least one case of media freedom violation, whether it is state controlled or private media. Everybody is being punished for their opinions, mostly be complaints filed by figures related one way or the other to the ruling regime.

AFTE also believes that those complaints will not be the last against media personnel opposing Morsi’s rule. AFTE expects those complaints and violations to increase after adoption of the new constitution which restricts freedoms and silences dissident voices, expected to be translated into several vague and oppressive laws, such as defamation of religion, insult to the president or threat to national unity, all of which are accusations used to dispose of the opposition.

AFTE warns from the flagrant aggression against media freedom. Silencing the media by decrees that terminate their work or even by the use of vague laws and accusations will not stop them expressing their views considering the availability of satellite channels. Media oppression is a dangerous indicator that the Egyptian regime will officially join dictatorships. Free countries are assessed by freedom granted to their media channels among others.  It is therefore that AFTE calls for reform of the legal structure governing the media and which at present permits interrogations and imprisoning media personnel because of their views. The media is entitled to freely express its views to the public and the public has the right to chose without censorship by the ruling authorities or societal sectors affiliated to the regime.

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