674 violations against Egyptian journalists in 2014: Watchdog group

Ahram Online , Monday 16 Mar 2015

NGO publishes report highlighting violations against journalists in Egypt last year

File photo: Egyptian journalists shout slogans during a protest at the journalists syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, April 4, 2014. (Photo: AP)

The Journalists Against Torture Observatory has stated that 674 violations were committed against journalists in Egypt in 2014.

“Journalists have become threatened everywhere and constraints are being forced upon them in practicing their duty to transmit the real picture, in addition to preventing them from reaching information normally,” the group said.

The highest rate of violations consisted of preventing journalistic coverage (179 incidents), followed by arrest and detainment of journalists (173), then assault (148), and 57 cases of threatening or verbal assault.

Other violations included 31 incidents of confiscating equipment, one murder case, three harassment cases and two incidents of degrading security checks.

Cairo came first with the highest rate of violations, 429, followed by 67 in Giza and 27 in Alexandria.

The group outlined parties responsible for the violations, which included governmental institutions as well as civilians and media organisations.

Online media journalists were subjected to the highest rate of violations, with 211 cases, followed by 181 cases concerning journalists working at private newspapers, and two cases of journalists working at foreign newspapers.

The group stated that 214 were fully documented by them, while 449 were according to journalistic parties, ten according to official parties and one case by human rights groups.

Egypt's 2014 Constitution states that "Freedom of the press, printing and paper, visual, audio and electronic publication is guaranteed," according to Article 70.

However, Egypt has one of the worst levels of press freedom worldwide according to watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which ranked the country 158th out of 180 surveyed in its 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

In its annual round-up, published last December, the group said that 46 journalists were arrested in Egypt in 2014, making it the second in the world for the number of journalist arrests.

Three Al-Jazeera journalists were sentenced to 7-10 years in June 2014 on charges of spreading false news and aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, before a court ordered a retrial in January.

Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian national who was forced to give up his Egyptian citizenship, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian national were released on bail pending retrial after spending 400 days behind bars, while Australian journalist Peter Greste was deported in February.

Journalists Against Torture is a body that was established in November 2013, aiming at denouncing the torture and mistreatment of Egyptian journalists at the hands of authorities.

The watchdog called for the release of all journalists temporarily detained upon “accusations that contradict the nature of the journalist’s job and the inevitability of their presence at the incident’s scene” and for the journalists syndicate to provide a framework to protect journalists.

They also called for an independent council to be formed from the journalists syndicate and civil society to investigate violations against journalists and suggest legislative amendments to ensure “no escape from punishment for those who violate freedom of press and of expression.”

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