Following Turkey and China, Egypt in 2016 ranked third internationally for imprisoning journalists, according to an annual census report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
As of December 1, there were 259 journalists in jail around the world. Turkey had at least 81 journalists behind bars. China, which was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2014 and 2015, dropped to the second spot with 38 journalists in jail.
“Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are third, fourth and fifth worst jailers of journalists, respectively,” CPJ stated in a press release.
According to reports by local NGOs and the Egyptian Press Syndicate, the freedom of the press had continued to deteriorate throughout the year.
In 2016 and for the first time in Egypt’s press history, the president of the syndicate and two of its deputies, including the head of the syndicate’s Freedoms Committee, faced legal prosecution and were handed prison verdicts, Egypt’s Daily News reported.
While the CPJ recorded 25 journalists behind bars, the syndicate recorded 29 imprisoned journalists.
CPJ’s list included journalist Mahmoud Abdel Naby, correspondent for RASSD news website, detained since July 2013.
He was arrested while covering clashes in Alexandria, but did not face trial until late 2016. His trial, according to the CPJ, has been postponed until 2017.
According to the Journalists Against Torture Observatory (JATO), Abdel Naby was beaten in Borg El-Arab prison and subjected to torture, including electrocution and tear gas. He was also placed in solitary confinement. His health has reportedly deteriorated.
Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou-Zeid, known as Shawkan, also stood among some of the longest-serving imprisoned journalists in Egypt, the News reported.
Detained since August 2013 and arrested while covering the dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya in Cairo, Shawkan’s trial has been repeatedly delayed.
The postponements were due to the large number of defendants in the cases as Shawkan and 700 others are charged with violence.
He was a recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Awards in 2016. While being held at Tora Prison, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and his health has deteriorated, the journalist’s family told CPJ.
Also arrested in August 2013 were RASSD executive director Abdullah Al-Fakharany, co-founder Samhy Mostafa and Amgad TV presenter Mohamed al-Adly.
According to CPJ, the trio were charged with “spreading chaos” and forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government during the dispersal of the sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya.
“The prosecutor-general accused the Muslim Brotherhood of using several media outlets, including RASSD and Amgad TV, to support its plot to take over the government and spread lies about the military and the government,” the report said.
– African News Agency (ANA)