Egypt urged to unblock websites and free journalists as part of “national dialogue”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Egyptian government to unblock news websites and release imprisoned journalists in the “national dialogue” it says it is beginning today with civil society representatives and members of the opposition with a view to carrying out political reforms.

The Egyptian authorities have an opportunity to prove that they can keep their word with regard to press freedom,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This national dialogue must lead to concrete results including the unblocking of news sites and the release of all journalists and bloggers.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi proclaimed 2022 to be the “year of civil society” and, according to the Egyptian media, “political reform” is the aim of the “national dialogue” his government began today with civil society representatives and members of the opposition.

The national dialogue is being conducted with a 19-member “board of trustees” that includes six journalists. They are Jamal El-Keshky, the editor of the magazine Al-Ahram Al-Arabi; Abdel Azim Hammad, the former editor of the daily newspapers Al-Shorouk and Al-Ahram; Emad El Din Hussein, the current editor of Al-Shorouk; Fatma El-Sayed Ahmed, a freelance journalist and writer; Mohamed Salmawy, a writer and columnist for various media outlets including the daily Al-Masry Al-Youm; and Mahmoud Alam El-Din, a freelance journalist and professor of journalism at Cairo University.

This dialogue is billed as part of the five-year human rights plan called the “National Strategy for Human Rights” that was launched on 11 September 2021. At the time of this plan’s launch, RSF called on the government to demonstrate the sincerity of its commitment to human rights by releasing all detained journalists.

Since then, five journalists have been released and one has been placed in detention, with the result that the number of journalists detained in Egypt now totals 22. Egypt’s courts have also given two bloggers, Mohamed Oxygen and Alaa Abdel Fattah, and two journalists, Hisham Fouad and Alia Awad, sentences ranging from three to 15 years in prison.

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