CAIRO: President Sisi is unable to grant a pardon to jailed journalists before a final ruling, he said in a Monday presidential statement.
“The best way to deal with some foreign journalists who commit violations is to deport them,” he said.
Sisi’s statement followed a meeting with a delegation from the Arab Journalists Union, leaders of journalists’ syndicates in the Arab world, and several prominent regional journalists to discuss the “intellectual conscience” that obligates media professionals to cover news objectively and impartially to create an “intellectual base in support of Arab countries against present dangers.”
“Only five Egyptian journalists are jailed,” and are being tried in cases unrelated to publishing, Diaa Rashwan, head of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate, said at the meeting.
Rashwan called on Sisi to pardon jailed Egyptian journalists after the issuance of final judgments.
At least 11 journalists are behind bars as of mid-September, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ.) Other than Al-Jazeera trio, the majority of the detainees belong to news outlets of Islamist affiliations, such as Rassd News Network.
Australian Peter Greste of Al-Jazeera English is the only foreign journalist jailed in Egypt, although his colleague Mohamed Fahmy is Egyptian-Canadian. After almost seven months of detention, they were handed down a seven-year prison term in June for “collaborating” with the Muslim Brotherhood. Their Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed received 10 years for allegedly being caught in possession of a weapon.
The three journalists have appealed the sentence after hopes of a Sisi pardon vanished, but the court has not yet set a date to consider the appeal. CPJ has called for the expediting of the appeal process.
Other journalists have been tried in absentia; most recently, Qatar-based Ahmed Mansour was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for allegedly torturing a lawyer at Tahrir Square in February 2011.
Perceived restriction imposed on journalists did not end at those who were arrested covering pro-Brotherhood protests. Gag orders also prevent journalists from writing on some cases.
Ali al-Sayed, chief editor of the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm and reported Ahmed Youssef were in hot water last week after the newspaper published a teaser for a report “proving the forgery” of the 2012 presidential elections in its Oct. 14 issue.
Attorney-General Hisham Barakat issued a gag order on the alleged rigging of the poll because it would affect the course of a pending lawsuit investigating the claim.
The report was thus never published, but Sayed and Youssef were interrogated for hours by the State Security prosecutions before they were released on a 2,000 EGP ($270) fine on Oct. 16.
An issue of Al-Masry Al-Youm was confiscated earlier this month due to an article on an interview with a late Egyptian intelligence officer.