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Egypt’s Jailed Journalists: In Numbers


The UN cultural agency, UNESCO has awarded its World Press Freedom Prize to imprisoned Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, despite criticism from the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi following the announcement last week.

The president of the independent jury that selects the award’s recipient, Maria Ressa, said the honour pays tribute to the “courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression” of Abu Zeid, who is more commonly known as Shawkan and who has been in jail since August 2013.

Arrested while covering deadly clashes between security forces and supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, in Cairo, he is potentially facing the death penalty.

While some rights groups hope the prize will pressure the Egyptian government to free the dozens of journalists currently imprisoned in the country’s jails, they say there is little sign of this happening.

“We know that this award has had an effect in the past,” Scott Griffen, the director of the International Press Institute (IPI), told Al Jazeera.

“[Shawkan] is a symbol of an everyday journalist in Egypt who is unable to carry out his job and who has been held in terrible circumstances in the past few years.”

Griffen cautioned that change seems to be far off.

So how has Egypt’s once-robust media industry ended up so endangered?

On World Press Freedom Day, Al Jazeera looks at the threats facing Egyptian journalists.

Jailed Journalists

Rights groups have reported an unparallelled crackdown on Egypt’s media in recent years and say there are signs it is getting worse.

Ghanem, who worked for the country’s Al Ahram newspaper and had served as a war correspondent for 20 years, was himself put on trial.

Media freedom stalled, he said, when in the wake of the revolution, partisan news outlets began campaigning against each other.

“Talk[ing] about press freedom in Egypt, it’s a nightmare,” Ghanem says.

Following the military coup, journalists and news outlets affiliated with Islamist-leaning groups were shut down, according to analysts.

Within two months following the coup, a total of five journalists were killed, 80 journalists were detained – although most were later released – and 40 newsgroups were attacked by law enforcement, according to RSF.

According to Ghanem, the government began buying into most media outlets through second-party companies.

Unlike past administrations, which had used more covert tactics to influence the media, “the state, represented by the military intelligence and the general intelligence, jumped into the market themselves, the market of the media, openly”, said Ghanem.

“Now they own 95 percent of the TV channels.”

The consequences of this are far-reaching, Ghanem says.

“[The Egyptian] people are being targeted on an hourly basis by media that has offers nothing but disinformation campaigns.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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