Egypt Second in the World for Arrested Journalists: Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) ranked Egypt as the second country in the world for the number of journalists arrested, and fourth “biggest prison” for journalists in an annual report released Tuesday.

RWB said 46 journalists were arrested in Egypt throughout the year on pretexts such as “being Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers, endangering national unity or inciting violence or riots”.

“The political situation does not justify President [Abel Fattah Al-]Sisi’s repressive policies and the propaganda regime he has established,” the media watchdog said.

Egypt ranks second after Ukraine by a difference of one journalist, with 47 arrested in Ukraine.

The report, which examines the period between December 2013 and December 2014, said 853 professional journalists and another 122 citizen journalists were arrested worldwide.

The roundup said the arrests may not be “such grave violations” as murder or abduction “but they obstruct the media’s work and often constitute a form of intimidation, which is unacceptable”.

Of a total of 178 professional journalists imprisoned worldwide, there are currently 16 imprisoned in Egypt, which represents 9% of all professional journalists imprisoned. Egypt is among the fourth “biggest prisons for journalists”, after China, Eritrea, and Iran. Number five on the list of journalist prisons is Syria, with 13 imprisoned journalists.

Coincidentally the same number of citizen journalists is in prison, another 178, the report said.

RWB’s roundup said 66 professional journalists were killed in connection with their reporting in 2014, while another 139 fled their countries. In addition to professional journalists, another 30 citizen journalists and media workers were also killed.

Syria remains the world’s deadliest country for journalists, with 15 killed journalists in the conflict-stricken country this year. It is followed by the Palestinian territories and Ukraine.

The number of professional journalists killed worldwide witnessed a 7% decrease from 2013. The roundup, however, highlights “an evolution in the nature of violence against journalists”.

It stated: “The murders are becoming more and more barbaric and the number of abductions is growing rapidly, with those carrying them out seeking to prevent independent news coverage and deter scrutiny by the outside world.” It added that under exposure to this intimidation, the number of journalists who fled their countries is twice as many as in 2013.

Among the journalists killed in 2014, one was an Egyptian female journalist, Mayada Ashraf. Ashraf, 22, worked for private newspaper Al-Dostour and was killed in March, after she was shot while covering clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo. The number of female journalists killed this year has doubled to six, in comparison to three in 2013.

In RWB’s 2014 World Press Freedom Index, Egypt ranked 159th out of 180 listed countries.

In 2013, Egypt was one of the top ten jailers of journalists in the world, according to the press freedom watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) census of imprisoned journalists. CPJ ranked the country as the third deadliest country for the press in 2013.

The number of professional and citizen journalists kidnapped this year has jumped by more than a third. While Ukraine tops the list with 33 kidnapped journalists, most cases have taken place in the Middle East and North Africa. In Libya, 29 journalists were kidnapped, while 27 and 20 were kidnapped in Syria and Iraq respectively.

The roundup said the chief causes for the kidnappings were the Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham’s (ISIS) “offensive” and “the turmoil in Libya, where the clashes between rival militias have not let up”.

The report identifies areas controlled by ISIS as the most dangerous in the world, where “journalists are closely monitored and often hunted down, kidnapped and killed”. This is followed by eastern Libya.

A total 1,846 journalists have been attacked or threatened worldwide. Ukraine once more tops this list, with more than 200 of those incidents taking place there.