The Arab Network for Human Rights and Information (ANHRI) issued a year-long review of the human rights situation in Egypt and other Arab countries in 2015.
The book, which was released on Monday, stated that 2015 was one of the worst years in terms of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Egypt: “An increasing number of normal citizens and others who are politically affiliated, journalists and artists were caught by restrictive legislations related to freedoms.”
According to ANHRI, the increase of terror attacks, especially during the first half of 2015, encouraged the state to pass certain laws and amend others, which has been described as a stranglehold on freedoms and press freedom in particular, in reference to the recently passed anti-terrorism law and the controversial protest law.
The book highlighted cases of individuals being detained despite their fellow defendants in the same trials – mostly protest charges – being released upon presidential pardons. It also described the protest law as a “tool to ban the constitutional right of peaceful protesting and imprison hundreds of people”.
Chief of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Hafez Abo Saada told Daily News Egypt that in early January, NCHR sent a request to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to release the 23 defendants on trial 8429/2014, dubbed the “Al-Itihadiya Palace trial”, relying on article 155 of the constitution, which mandates the president to release any prisoner.
“Those people remain in detention until now. We call for their immediate release and the release of all defendants on charges of protesting, especially students,” Abo Saada said. “Protesting peacefully is a constitutional right that no one should be arrested for. The set of charges usually presented by the prosecution against protestors including road blocking and assembly, which are normal settings for any protest; the state should rather facilitate peaceful protesting.”
The ANHRI report further stated cases of journalists, whose work has been banned or censored or were arrested during 2015. It listed 13 more journalists who were arrested in 2015 to and a total of 60 journalists currently behind bars since 2013.
Among these journalists is Mahmoud Al-Sakka, who worked for news website Yanair Gate and was arrested in late December on charges of belonging an outlawed group that advocated for the 25 January Revolution.
“The crackdown on journalists is not related to those who publish news about terror attacks with no reference to official statements but rather all journalists who merely publish stories related to policemen or the military in general,” ANHRI said.
In April 2015, the official webpage of the Ministry of Interior released a video showcasing the arrest of Hussein Abdel Halim, who they claimed was wanted for seven different trials. ANHRI stated howerer that Abdel Halim is a journalist working for privately owned Al-Dostour newspaper and his arrest came as a result of an investigative series he wrote on alleged police violations.
Local observatory group Journalists Against Torture (JATO) stated in its December census report that it monitored 34 incidents, where journalists were banned from covering an event or the content of their cameras had been deleted.