The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned Tuesday the recent wave of newspaper censorship in Egypt, citing the new anti-terrorism law as the pretext for this phenomenon.
Over the past two weeks, three newspapers were subjected to censorship, due to the presence of content critical of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
A Sout Al-Omma newspaper issue was confiscated on 14 August for containing reports on the health condition of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s mother, as well as reports on a corrupt network of Mubarak-era figures.
A week later, an issue of Al-Mesryoon newspaper was pulled from print over critical content, while an issue of Al-Sabah newspaper was subject to censorship over an opinion piece that criticised a party leader who is rumoured to have close ties with the president.
Regarding Al-Mesryoon’s newspaper issue, CPJ reported that the state-owned Al-Ahram printing press informed the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Mesryoon that it would not print the weekly edition of the newspaper unless two stories about the president were removed, in accordance with orders from an “unnamed authority”.
The newspaper had to change the two pieces to end a halt in printing that lasted for almost four hours, according to Gamal Soltan, Editor-in-Chief of Al-Mesryoon.
The Press Syndicate’s freedom’s committee expressed its concerns on Sunday over the return of press censorship that threatens press freedom in Egypt and violates the constitution. The committee issued a statement condemning the phenomenon.
Several NGOS, including the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), denounced the censorship and expressed concern over the escalating manner in which newspapers are subject to confiscation.
AFTE reviewed the laws and constitutional articles that protect press freedom, and stated that those articles and legislations are largely suspended and violated by “unnamed security authorities” that make censorship decisions.
The new anti-terrorism law was signed and passed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi early this month, despite previous controversy over some of its articles.
Article 35 of the law considers media reports on terrorism and counter-terrorism operations that contradict the Ministry of Defence statements on them a felony of “promoting false news”, subject to a fine of between EGP 200,000 and EGP 500,000.
CPJ believes the law criminalises basic reporting and defines terrorist crimes in a broad manner that can be threatening to critical journalists. According to CPJ research, there are currently 22 journalists in jail in Egypt because of their work.