One of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists
The press freedom situation is becoming more and more alarming in Egypt, with frequent waves of raids and arrests. Egypt is now one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, with some spending years in detention without being charged or tried, and others being sentenced to long jail terms or even life imprisonment in iniquitous mass trials. Ever since Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seized power in a coup in 2013, a process of a “Sisification” has been under way in the media. The government has waged a witch-hunt against journalists suspected of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and has bought up the biggest media groups to the point that it now controls the entire media landscape and has imposed a complete clampdown on free speech.
The Internet is the only place left where independently reported information can circulate, but more than 500 websites have been blocked since the summer of 2017, including many news sites, and more and more people are being arrested because of their social media posts. Many media outlets have been forced to close because they could not survive economically after being deprived of online visibility. A draconian legislative arsenal poses an additional threat to media freedom. Under a terrorism law adopted in August 2015, journalists are obliged on national security grounds to report only the official version of “terrorist” attacks. In 2018, new cyber-crime and media laws enshrined government control over the media and made it possible to prosecute and imprison journalists and close websites for sharing independently reported information online.
Journalists and human rights defenders are meanwhile banned from much of the Sinai region and from providing independent coverage of any military operation. Coverage of many economic subjects, including inflation and corruption, can also result in imprisonment. The presidential election in 2018 and the referendum in 2019 on a longer presidential term intensified the censorship and accelerated the pace with which media outlets are closed. Foreign media are also targeted, with articles being blocked online or attacked by officials, and reporters being expelled or banned from visiting Egypt.
166 in 2020
56.82 in 2020