Letters   |   Egypt

Egypt must investigate attacks on the press

December 9, 2011

Prime Minister Kamal El Ganzory
2 Maglis Al-Shaab Street
Cairo, Egypt

Via email: pm@cabinet.gov.[email protected]

Your Excellency Prime Minister El Ganzory:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to bring to your attention the mounting press freedom violations in Egypt. Between November 19 and 24, we documented at least 35 cases of journalists who were attacked in Cairo and Alexandria when protesters clashed with the military and police. We are attaching the list here and ask specifically for you to note the deteriorating state of press freedom in your country.

During your appointment to the premiership, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi announced that you would be granted significant presidential powers. You have since reiterated that you will exercise these powers to restore confidence in the faltering political process. It is in keeping with the spirit of your declaration that we urge you to ensure that each case, described in detail in the list, is given due attention and properly investigated. In addition, we ask you to oversee the release of two Egyptian journalists, Alaa Abd el-Fattah and Maikel Nabil Sanad, who remain in jail.

The press freedom violations we are pointing out come on the heels of sustained attacks against the press since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. The journalists on this list have made multiple claims of being abused or sexually assaulted while in state custody. In many cases, they reported that police intentionally fired live ammunition at them while they were documenting the protests.

The attacks on press freedom did not stop there. Other violations include the continued imprisonment of Alaa Abd el-Fattah and Maikel Nabil Sanad, two online journalists who wrote critically of the military. Credible claims of procedural irregularities and the use of demonstrably false testimonies by their lawyers have been ignored by prosecutors. The military also failed to investigate the killing of Wael Mikhael, a cameraman for the Coptic television broadcaster Al-Tareeq, who was killed during clashes between civilians and security forces on October 9.

CPJ also documented a growing roster of media violations that includes the December 1 distribution halt of the independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm's new weekly English-language edition called Egypt Independent. The paper was forced to stop an entire print run of 20,000 copies because of an opinion piece critical of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, according to the London-based daily The Independent.

Your Excellency, you have recently been granted presidential powers and are in the position to take action. We call on you to ensure that each case in the list of attacked journalists is credibly and transparently investigated and to ensure Abd el-Fattah and Sanad are freed from jail and allowed to work freely without fear of reprisal.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director



35 attacks on journalists documented by CPJ between November 19 and 24

  • On November 19, a policeman shot a tear gas canister at Islam al-Kalhi, an editor for independent newspaper Al-Badil, hitting him in the leg while he was taking pictures on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the journalist told CPJ. The next day, three of al-Kalhi's colleagues from Al-Badil--Huda Ashraf, Fatima al-Luwa, and Hagar al-Gayar--were beaten by security forces on the same street, he said.
  • Ahmed Abd al-Fattah, a cameraman for the independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm, was shot in his right eye with a rubber bullet on November 19 while filming clashes in Tahrir Square, the daily reported. He was rushed to the hospital and is still undergoing treatment for his eye injury.
  • Also on November 19, military and police units attacked at least 9 journalists in and around Tahrir Square, the secretary-general of Egypt's Press Syndicate, Kareem Mahmoud, told CPJ. The journalists include Rasha Azab, editor for the independent Al-Fagr; Omar al-Zohairi and Motaz Zaki, photographers for the independent daily Al-Tahrir; Mahmoud al-Hefnaoui, editor for the daily Youm7; Al-Masry al-Youm editor Mohamed Kamel, and photographers Adanob Emad and Tarek Wageeh; Amr Gamal, editor for the website Al-Hurriya wa Al-Adala; and freelance photographer Saad Abid.
  • Sarhan Sinara, a journalist with the daily Al-Akhbar, was arrested and assaulted by police in Alexandria on November 19, according to CPJ research. Sinara was taken into detention for six hours and repeatedly beaten with a club after his clothes were stripped from him. He was refused medical treatment even though he suffers from leukemia, CPJ research shows.
  • Five other journalists were also assaulted and beaten by plainclothes and uniformed police in Alexandria on the same day: Ahmed Tarek, editor for the official Middle East News Agency (MENA); Ahmed Ramadan, an Al-Tahrir photographer; Mohamed Fuad and Essam Amer, Alexandria office director and editor, respectively, for the independent daily Al-Shorouk; and Rafi Mohamed Shakir, a photographer for the same paper, MENA's Tarek told CPJ.
  • Six journalists from independent news site Hoqook  were injured between November 19 and 23: Khalid al-Amir was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet while reporting from Alexandria on November 19; Mohammed Gamal was beaten by security forces and detained for an hour on November 19; cameraman Abdul Rahman Youssef was shot with four rubber bullets while filming in Cairo on November 19; Sayid Abdel Ilaah was beaten by security forces and his camera confiscated in Suez on November 20; Ahmed Wagih was hit by a rock on November 21 while reporting from Minya in Upper Egypt, suffered a head injury, and had his camera confiscated; Ahmed Qinawy was arrested near the Interior Ministry while filming and beaten by plainclothes officials who tore up his journalist license on November 23, according to Hoqook.
  • Ahmed Fiqqi, a reporter for Radio Hoqook which is hosted by Hoqook, was shot in the left eye by a policeman on November 21. Fiqqi was covering clashes between protesters and security forces in Tahrir Square, Hoqook said in a statement. The journalist is in intensive care, and the bullet remains lodged in his brain.
  • Maher Iskandar, a photographer for the daily Youm7, was shot in the left leg while filming clashes in Tahrir Square on November 21, the daily reported.
  • Police officers sexually assaulted and beat up Egyptian-American freelance journalist Mona Eltahawy while covering protests near Tahrir Square on Mohamed Mahmoud Street on November 23. She was beaten with sticks, sexually assaulted, and dragged down the street. Her hand and arm were broken. She was then held at the Interior Ministry and turned over to military intelligence. The entire ordeal lasted 12 hours, the journalist told CPJ.
  • Guillem Valle, a freelance Spanish photographer on assignment for The Wall Street Journal, was beaten by plainclothes policemen while covering protests in Tahrir Square on November 23. Valle was hospitalized and suffered minor head injuries, the newspaper told CPJ.
  • Egyptian-American documentary filmmaker Jehan Nujaim and her cameraman, Magdy Ashour, were detained on November 23 while filming near the Ministry of Interior on Mansour Street, according to several news reports. They were released the next day.
  • Freelance photographer Mohamed Said Shehatha was beaten by seven or eight plainclothes and uniformed police while covering clashes between police and demonstrators in front of the Alexandria Security Directorate building on November 23, the journalist told CPJ. Shehatha, who was taken to the hospital for his injuries, said police officers confiscated his camera and press credentials and did not return them.

  • Caroline Sinz, a French reporter for the public French television station France 3, was beaten and sexually assaulted by a group of boys while covering protests in Tahrir Square on November 24. Her cameraman, Salah Agrabi, was also beaten by the same mob, Sinz told Agence-France Presse.

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