Egypt’s imprisonment of journalists is at an all-time high 

Mideast Egypt

June 27, New York:The number of journalists in Egyptian jails is the highest since the Committee to Protect Journalists began recording data on imprisoned journalists in 1990, according to a new census of imprisoned journalists in Egyptreleased today. Of the 18 journalists behind bars as of June 1, more than one-thirdare sentenced to life in prison.

“Repeated pledges by Egyptian authorities that press freedom would be respected and even strengthened have never sounded more hollow than they do today,” saidSherif Mansour, CPJ’s program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. “Under cover of anti-terrorism measures, the government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi is using harsh methods to crush critical voices.”

The journalists have been arrested on charges ranging from inciting violence and participating in illegal protests to membership in illegal groups. In particular, the government abuses anti-terrorism laws to link journalists with the Muslim Brotherhood, listed in Egypt as a terror organization. The move is part of a global trend documented in CPJ’s 2015 edition of Attacks on the Press, which shows how journalists around the World are caught between anti-terrorism laws and terrorism itself.

More than half of the journalists on CPJ’s census worked online, showing how the Internet, once considered the safest place for free speech and independent reporting in Egypt, is becoming increasingly dangerous.

Due to heavy restrictions on journalists in Egypt, entire regions, especially Sinai, are under-reported. CPJ also found that police and prosecutors abuse their powers of pretrial detention, which allows them to hold detainees for up to two years without trial. The case of freelancer photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, or “Shawkan,” is emblematic of the practice. He has been held for almost two yearsin the infamous Tora prison, but was only recently charged, and no trial date has been set. Conditions for journalists in Egyptian prisons are harsh, with reports of deplorable living quarters, beatings, and torture.

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