On Thursday, October 3, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) issued a specialized report titled “Besieging the Truth”. This report monitors and analyzes the types of abuses faced by media professionals while covering protests and clashes during the period from June 30 to August 30, 2013.
The 45-page report attempts to document and analyze the types of abuses targeting media professionals and journalists from June 30, 2013 to August 30, 2013, a period that saw widespread, serious assaults on media workers and outlets. In the past, media workers were targeted by the security forces, but during the period under study, CIHRS noted that media workers faced grave violations and threats not only by the security forces but by supporters of the deposed president as well as by supporters of the new transitional government.
Based on information collected and documented by the CIHRS in this report, at least 205 violations of media freedoms took place in the period between June 28, 2013, when mass protests calling for the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi began, and August 30, 2013. In quantitative terms, the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters were responsible for the largest number of violations (85 violations), while the most serious abuses were committed by the transitional authorities and the security and armed forces, which were responsible for a number of cases of extrajudicial killings of both Egyptian and foreign journalists. Indeed, evidences points to the involvement of the security forces in at least two such instances of killings as well as in the arbitrary detention of dozens of journalists (40 cases), thirteen of whom remained in custody at the time of the issuance of this report.
CIHRS stresses that the interim government has failed to put an end to the abuses against media professionals in Egypt and refused to decrease restrictions on foreign reporters. Such failures on the part of the authorities raise serious concerns that further attacks may occur and reinforce the culture of self-censorship that already exists in the media field. If it is serious about putting an end to the failed policies of the Muslim Brotherhood over the past year, the transitional government must condemn all attacks on journalists and undertake thorough and transparent investigations in order to ensure that all perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice.
Although the report does not monitor or assess the professionalism of media outlets in the period under study, CIHRS notes with grave concern that restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedoms are likely to grow in such a polarized political climate. Indeed, some political elites and sections of the media opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood or to political Islam in general have incited against Islamist-affiliated media workers and sought revenge against them, turning a blind eye to subsequent violations committed against them. Such actions pave the way for establishing a political environment fraught with violations to freedom of opinion, expression, and access to information.
CIHRS emphasizes that it is not enough for the interim government to promise to remove restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt to ensure that journalists are able to carry out their professional duties. Rather, the interim government must ensure that journalists enjoy protections that allow them to conduct their work without fear of attacks or reprisals.
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