Clampdown on media coverage of Egypt’s constitutional referendum
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is disturbed by the constant increase in restrictions on the media in Egypt. In the past few days, the media were banned from reporting the partial results of the referendum on sweeping changes to the constitution that was held from 20 to 22 April, and were prevented from covering the vote count.
The ban on publishing partial results was imposed by the National Election Authority, which is in charge of the voting. It nonetheless announced at a press conference in Cairo on 20 April that the media had the right to cover both the voting and the vote count, but many reporters have in practice been prevented from attending vote count operations.
“By banning journalists from reporting the partial results of a vote for the first time ever, the Egyptian authorities have shown that they are determined to clamp down even more on the dissemination of public interest information,” RSF’s Middle East desk said. “We call on the National Election Authority to ensure that journalists are able to exercise their right to attend vote count operations, as it promised.”
A committee created by the pro-government National Journalists Syndicate to monitor media coverage of the referendum said it had received reports of at least six incidents. One of these complaints was filed by the newspaper Bawabat al-Ahram, which said that one of its reporters, Mohammed Ali, was prevented from taking photos when he went to a voting station in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams and showed his press card.
The newspaper Al Mashhad told RSF that 30 of its reporters were denied permission to cover the vote count although they had previously filed all of the required papers within the stipulated deadlines, including a letter to the High Council for Media Regulation.
Egypt is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, two places lower than in 2018.