Media watchdog report calls Egypt's Brotherhood a 'freedoms violator'

Osman El Sharnoubi, Friday 3 May 2013

On World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders describes why they add Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to its Predators of Freedom of Information list

Supporters of Mohamed Morsi celebrate electoral win in Tahrir Square, June 2012, (Photo: Reuters).

France-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders added Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to their list of 'Predators of Freedom of Information' for 2013 on Friday, which marks the World Press Freedom Day, accusing the group's members and supporters of attacking journalists.

"Members and supporters of Egyptian President Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, have been responsible for harassing and physically attacking independent media and journalists critical of the party," the group stated on its website.

President Mohamed Morsi, who has been in power for ten months, ran for presidency through the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which he headed before assuming power.

He announced that he parted company with the FJP shortly after winning the 2012 elections to prove that he is a "president of all Egyptians." Critics, however, keep arguing that he is loyal to the Brotherhood, which they regard as the de-facto ruling body of Egypt.

The World Press Freedom Day is an initiative launched by Reporters Without Borders to encourage freedom of the press and pay tribute to journalists who were subjected to harm while carrying out their job.

The list released by the group includes 39 "presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organisations that "that censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and kill journalists and other news providers."

Reporters Without Borders slapped the Brotherhood with a strongly-worded critical profile, written in the subjective.

Commenting on the style of writing, Reporters Without Borders stated that "to show how some predators really think, we have presented their innermost thoughts in the first person. We had to use a little imagination, of course, but the facts alluded to conform to reality."

The Muslim Brotherhood's profile reads: "The more unpopular we [Brotherhood] are in certain circles, the more radical we become. Prosecutions for defamation, insulting the president and offending religion come thick and fast."

The statement alluded to the investigation of Egypt's most popular satirist Bassem Youssef by the prosection. Youssef was questioned for content in his weekly television programme after being accused of insulting religion and "public morality."

"The television presenter Bassem Youssef is a thorn in our side, and he is not the only one," Reporters Without Borders' profile continued.

Highly critical of President Morsi and Islamist figures, Youssef's show El-Barnameg (The Show), notably treaded over lines never crossed before on Egyptian television. Youssef was summoned by the prosecution for further questioning this Wednesday.

Many are afraid their hard-earned media freedoms, suppressed for decades under autocratic rulers, would be taken away by the Brotherhood after relatively free-reign in media outlets after Egypt's January 25 Revolution.

Brotherhood figures and their Islamist allies have repeatedly come out against media outlets that oppose the Islamist group. President Morsi himself has voiced accusations of corruption and biased reporting.

Salafist protesters aligned with the Brotherhood's policies laid siege to Egypt's Media Production City, headquarter for many opposition television channels.

"Our supporters have also taken to besieging Media City in Cairo, where the main independent television stations have their offices, in protest against 'biased' media reporting," reads the Reporters Without Borders report, still in the imaginary voice of the Brotherhood.

There were widespread demands to prosecute popular Islamist preachers, including disqualified presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail, for instigating what they described as "encroachment on media freedom." Such calls fell on deaf ears, however.

Islamist figures supported the siege on the Media Production City, which lasted for nearly three months, and encouraged Islamists protesters to attack television presenters and their guests as they moved in and out of the compound.

The group also cited attacks by Brotherhood members and supporters on journalists. "Party [Brotherhood] activists have been prepared to use violence against journalists on a number of occasions," Reporters Without Borders commented on its website.

Back to the imaginary Brotherhood profile, it reads: "Last December, journalists reporting on clashes outside the presidential palace were attacked by our supporters ... the same happened in March, when journalists were covering clashes outside our party headquarters in Moqattam."

The NGO also mentioned Egyptian journalist El-Husseiny Abou-Deif who was shot with a rubber bullet in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters at the presidential palace last December. Abou-Deif died after entering a coma following his injury.

Not mentioned in the report, yet still notable: Egypt's Minister of Information Salah Abdel-Maksoud – a Brotherhood member – has been slammed for what could be a sign of disrespect to women and/or journalists.

When a female reporter asked where media freedoms stand in Egypt, the minister replied: "Come and I'll tell you where they are," which many believe drips with sexual connotations.

Abdel-Maksoud repeated the same words to another journalist despite the public outrage he caused the first time.

The watchdog called for implementing measures to guarantee observing UN resolution 1738 which combats impunity for crimes against journalists.

While the Muslim Brotherhood were added to the list, Palestinian rulers in Gaza Hamas – frequently associated with the Brotherhood – were dropped from the list. Reporters Without Borders cited a sharp decline in the number of their press freedom violations as a reason for their decision.

Syrian anti-regime militia Jabhat al-Nusra, a group suspected of having ties with Al-Qaeda and Chinese President Xi Jinping were also added to the list on Friday.

Reporters Without Borders was established in 1985 and monitors media expression and freedoms on an international scale as well as providing material, financial and psychological assistance to independent journalists, the NGO says on its website. The group has a consultant status at the United Nations.

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