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The State of Press Freedom in Egypt

Paul Marshall

Further to K-Lo’s post on the Egyptian military’s widespread abuse of protesters, including beatings and subjecting female detainees to so-called “virginity tests,” I’d like to add that the military has also declared a ban on all strikes and protests that might “destabilize the country” — a dangerously amorphous category that easily paves the way for selective enforcement. Many large protests still go on anyway — including the big ones in Tahrir Square, though the armed forces have attacked even some of these — but the military is using the ban to break up protests that make them uncomfortable.

Also, earlier today, the military questioned three journalists who have criticized the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (the country’s current supreme rulers) and reported on the military’s abuse of protesters. On Monday, military prosecutors issued summonses to television anchor Reem Maged, who has a daily talk show on the private television channel ONTV; journalist Nabil Sharaf al-Din; and noted blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy. Hamalawy has been one of the leaders not only in investigating recent military abuses but also in carefully documenting the previous repression carried out by Mubarak’s security apparatus. On May 26, Reem Maged interviewed him on her TV show.

The military prosecutors stated that they were merely interested in the journalists’ claim that they had concrete evidence of abuse by the armed forces, and that they wanted to examine any such evidence. After the meetings, the journalists reported that they had not been charged with any offense and had not been badly treated. However, they added that being summoned by the military was itself intimidation and a threat to press freedom.

Military prosecutors also asked for all reports, videos, and other materials used in Reem Maged’s program. The reporters responded that they had already submitted all the relevant materials “to both the general and military prosecution, but they were never investigated.”

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