The following report monitors the status of the press and media in Egypt, and analyzes the developments in the Egyptian media sector during January and February 2016.
The report is issued by the ‘al Sawt al Hurr, the Arab Network for Media Support’ and is one of a series of reports issued by the network to provide media personnel, researchers and journalists interested in media with a comprehensive monitor and analysis highlighting these developments.
1. Developments in the Media Sector in General
– On the 17th of January, the People’s Assembly passed the “terrorism law” unamended. The law criminalizes publishing any story that contradicts with the official stand regarding terrorist attacks. It includes a massive fine to be paid by any journalist who publishes any false news or information about terrorist attacks which differs from the official story.
– The National Committee for Press and Media Legislation completed its work and presented the “Unified Bill for Regulating Press and Media” in its final form. On January 3rd the board of the Journalists’ Syndicate welcomed the Cabinet’s discussion on the bill and emphasized the necessity to issue this law as one entity so that freedoms, rights and duties can be guaranteed.
– The president of the Republic, the government, the Journalists’ Syndicate and the media mourned the death of famous journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, who passed away at 93 on February 17 from renal failure. National media widely commemorated Heikal with special reports and supplements. International media, Arab media in particular, also wrote about the important contribution of Heikal to the development of journalism.
– The media also widely covered the 47th annual International Book Fair; this year with a strong contribution of the Armed Forces with a series of publications, supervised by the Military Research Authority.
2. Printed news media
– On the 7th of January, the Freedoms Committee of the Journalists’ Syndicate released a statement denouncing the decision to bind over six journalists to trial. The decision includes three editors in chief: Abdel Halim Qandil of ‘Sawt al Umma’ newspaper; Hesham Younis of ‘al Ahram Gate’ and Gamal Sultan of ‘al Masryoon’ newspaper. They are to stand trials over an accusation by the then Minister of Justice Ahmed al Zend, during his term as President of the Judges Club.
– On January 12, Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel Aal in a meeting with the parliamentary reporters confirmed that he stands against detaining journalists. He also pointed out that the suspension of live broadcasts from parliamentary sessions will be temporary.
– Abdul Qadir Heimeda, the poet, short story writer, translator and journalist, died on January 29th, at the age of 86. Heimeda worked as a reporter since 1957. He took over several positions as the sub-Editor-in-Chief of the Radio and Television Magazine, Doha Magazine Managing Editor and Editor-in –Chief, he also worked as a press advisor to the National Guard magazine and was the Editor-in-Chief at the National Center for Theater, Music and Folklore’s series of studies at the Ministry of Culture.
– The journalists imprisoned at “al A’qrab” prison began an open mass hunger strike in prison, on February 20th, to protest the ill-treatment and abuse they face in prison, as they put it. The journalists who started strike were Magdy Ahmed Hussein, Hisham Ja’far, Hassan al Qabbani, Ahmed Sibee, Hany Salah Eddin, Walid Shalabi, Ahmed Saleh, Mohammed Nawareg and Hossam al Sayyed. They asserted they aim at stopping the slow wave of death they are confronting in prison.
– On January 28th ‘al Masry al Youm’ daily newspaper published the first interview conducted with journalist Fatima Naot, after she was sentenced to three years in prison and fined EGP 20,000 on charges of blasphemy. Naot said she accepted the verdict and that she made no less a sacrifice than Farag Fouda, Taha Hussein, Sayyed al Qemany, Ibn Rushdy (a.k.a. Averroes), Ibn al Muqaffa’ and Galileo. Naot accused all Islamic movements of standing against her success in parliament, because of her remarks in which she criticized slaying cattle for the “Eid al Adha” celebrations and called Islamists as hypocrites and pretentious. She warned that intellectuals will eventually all face similar accusations, and that the Ministry of Culture will not function well as long as it remains dependent on one person, which is the Minister. She mentioned that it is necessary to form a front to stand by him, against those whom she described as “ignorant”.
– On February 18th, the country’s newspapers devoted several pages and many photographs to veteran journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, his work, his life and his most prominent quotes. ’al Ahram’s opened a register for condolences in its main office. Its news site featured a special file with articles and rare photographs over his career; ‘al Akhbar’s front page headlined.. ”The death of a legend, Egypt’s most prominent journalist and thinker” and its editor in chief wrote: “The irreplaceable one has gone”; ‘al Masry al Youm’ newspaper re-published his most significant interviews as part of its commemoration; ‘al Watan’ newspaper chose “The Veteran Journalist.. The Journey Has Ended” for the special file it prepared about Heikal; ‘al Shorouk’ wrote two stories titled: “Heikal.. An Everlasting History” and “The Veteran Journalist’s Story from Cradle to Death” and ‘Youm 7’ also devoted its whole front page for Heikal’s portrait, and made a special file for him.
Egyptian media also widely covered the way Arab media commemorated Heikal, including Saudi Arabia’s ‘Okaz’; Yemen’s ‘al Najm al Thaqeb’; Syria’s ‘Enab Baladi’ and several Lebanese news media. ‘Alarabiya.net’, wrote that Heikal made a star of Nasser”. Other international press outlets included ‘Reuters’; ‘Associated Press’; ‘Daily Mail’; ‘Jerusalem Post’; ‘CNN’; and ‘Tasnim News Agency’;
– On January 2nd, the Bulaq Misdemeanor Court acquitted Ahmed Nagy, journalist at ‘Akhbar al Adab’ newspaper and his editor in chief of charges of publishing an obscene sexual literary text that contravenes with society’s values following an appeal submitted by prosecution on the decision by the court of first instance. On February 20th, Bulaq Misdemeanor Appeals Court overturned the verdict and sentenced Ahmed Nagy to two years in prison and editor in chief of Tareq al Taher of ‘Akhbar al Adab’, to an EGP 10,000 fine for professional negligence of his role and position.
– On January 26th, Khalifa Misdemeanors Court, headed by judge Mohamed al Malt, sentenced journalist Fatima Naot to three years in prison and ordered her to pay a fine of 20,000 L.E. over blasphemy. The following day, Naot filed an appeal on the verdict.
– On September 6th, Judge Fathy al Bayoumi, selected by the Head of Cairo Court of Appeals, referred several journalists to a Criminal Court. The journalists are: Hisham Younis, editor in chief and reporter Ahmed Abdel Azim, of ‘al Ahram Gate’ ; Gamal Sultan, editor in chief and editor Eman Yahya Ibrahim Badawi of ‘al Masryoun’ newspaper; Abdel Halim Qandil, editor in chief and editor Mohamed Saad Khattab of ‘Sawt al Umma’ newspaper. The journalists are accused of publishing false news on the Minister of Justice, Ahmed al Zend, during his term as president of the Judges Club.
On January 19th, the Administrative Court reversed the Attorney General’s decision to impose a news embargo on the case publicly known as “manipulating presidential elections” held in 2012 and resulted in the victory of former president Mohamed Morsi.
On January 23rd, Giza Criminal Court overturned Attorney General Nabil Sadiq’s decision of a travel ban on businessman Salah Diab, owner of ‘al Masry al Youm’ newspaper, charged for possessing unauthorized firearms and ammunition at his home in Manial Shiha district in Giza governorate.
– On February 3rd, the defense of the defendant “espionage with Qatar” case requested the Criminal Court of Cairo to summon Mona Madkour, the journalist at ‘’al Watan’ news site, to question her about an interview she conducted with Tharwat Gouda, deputy head of General Intelligence Directorate during the rule of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
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