The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) published an article in which it deplored “the increasing crackdown against freedom of expression in Egypt.” The statement, republished by the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights on Thursday, makes note of the amount of lawsuits filed against activists for insulting the president.
The statement says at least 24 cases and complaints were filed during Morsi’s first six months in power, compared to four during former President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year rule. Of the 24, at least three were filed by the president’s office.
“Freedom of expression is an essential core value to a true democratic society,” FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said. “These decisions by the Egyptian authorities constitute a blatant infringement on this right and consequently disclaim any sign of willingness to move toward democratic transition.”
There have been several cases targeting journalist, television presenters, activists and bloggers over the past few weeks. The latest case is against satirist Bassem Youssef who stands accused of insulting the president and religion. According to FIDH the Egyptian General Authority for Investment threatened the CBC channel to withdraw its registration if Youssef’s show is not altered.
Several journalists have also faced similar charges for writing allegedly defamatory statements about the president. FIDH says the crackdown on journalists “comes against the backdrop of a general hostile environment for freedom of expression,” citing the Media Production City siege in March by “Islamist groups” as well as attacks on journalist by Muslim Brotherhood members near their headquarters in Moqattam.
FIDH also said that journalists are not alone, and while political opponents and human rights defenders are also targeted, government sympathisers are left unchecked.
“It is particularly worrying that the public prosecution has not ordered the arrest of those who used violence against others during the recent incidents, particularly from the side of the Muslim Brotherhood,” stated Belhassen. “Instead of referring cases of freedom of expression to extraordinary courts, the public prosecution should focus its efforts on investigating the intermittent violent episodes, and bring those responsible to justice.”
FIDH said it deplores the fact that “despite the guarantees set-forth by the new Egyptian constitution and the ending of the 30-year-long state of emergency, the use of State Security courts continues.”
According to Article 45 of the constitution, every individual “has the right to express an opinion and to disseminate it verbally, in writing or illustration, or by any other means of publication and expression.” Article 75 states that “no person shall be tried except before their natural judge; exceptional courts are prohibited.”
FIDH said it is highly concerned by the decision to resort to exceptional courts because “they do not guarantee the right to fair trial or due process, and have historically been used by the former regime in an arbitrary manner to sanction political dissent.”