CAIRO: The Press Syndicate Monday referred two journalists to investigation over allegations of defamation in a TV show episode broadcast last week, journalist Nagat Abdul Rahman told The Cairo Post Monday.
Syndicate head Diaa Rashwan said the journalists violated the codes of the Media Charter of Honor, Youm7 reported. The charter was issued by the Ministry of Information and forbids the defamation of people, incitement to killing and violence against people, and verbally attacking others without providing proof of claims. Under Egyptian law, public defamation is a crime punishable by a jail term, a fine or both, to be determined according to the damage done.
The case arises from a Sept. 12 broadcast when Ahmed Moussa, a journalist at Al-Ahram and a presenter at Sada Al-Balad TV, interviewed Abdul Rahman, a journalist mostly known for launching a media campaign attacking political activists on grounds that the participants in the January 25 Revolution received training sessions in Serbia. Moussa’s show is called “Under My Responsibility.”
In the show, the journalists called political activists “traitors” who conspired against the State with the support of foreign organizations to overthrow the regime, providing several videos of different protests to backup their claims. They highlighted how some protesters were violent, including a video where protesters entered the headquarters of the National Security Authority in March 2011.
Naturally, both journalists have stirred angry reactions from the public, especially young activists who take pride in the 2011 uprising which toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. However, in the eyes of some, this time they went too far, and went beyond speculation and into defamation.
Two lawsuits were filed against the journalists for defamation. Political activist and April 6 Youth Movement icon Esraa Abdel Fattah filed a lawsuit with the attorney general’s office on Sept. 15 accusing Moussa and Rahman of slander. Abdel Fattah also claimed that since the night of the show she has been receiving death threats, and blamed the two journalists for inciting murder against her, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
“Media specialized in insulting the revolution and calling it a conspiracy is offensive to the constitution and to Egyptians,” Abdel Fattah posted on her Facebook page on Sept. 18.
Moussa responded by saying on his show on Sept. 15, “I am actually glad that Abdel Fattah went to the police because it was about time the public knew about those cases, which will also reveal what really happened during the revolution.”
“I hope that Shady al-Ghazaly also goes to the prosecutor, as well as any other person mentioned in the episode with Abdul Rahman,” Moussa added. He said he stood by all information stated on the show, and could provide supporting evidence.
His hopes were soon to become true, as Ghazaly, a political activist, filed a lawsuit against Moussa and the TV channel accusing them of incitement to murder, in addition to defaming him and other political activists, Al-Shorouq reported Monday.
These accusations against the April 6 Youth Movement are not unprecedented.
TV presenter Abdul Reheem Ali used to run a daily show called “The Black Box,” which relied on leaked recordings of activists—namely April 6 Youth members speaking to each other on the phone—in an attempt to discredit the image of the January revolution.
Former Egyptian diplomat and interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei has usually been linked to the activists in an attempt to reinforce the idea of an international conspiracy overthrowing Mubarak.
As for the Serbia connection, the April 6 Youth Movement was in part influenced by the tactics of Otpor, a like-minded youth-driven activist group credited with influencing the downfall of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević in 2000. Although not without its critics, Otpor was widely viewed as being non-violent.