CAIRO: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, requesting a meeting with him to discuss a “more open press climate,” according to CPJ statement Monday.
The potential meeting would be based on CPJ’s meeting with representatives of the Egyptian government last month, where CPJ voiced concerns over press freedom and imprisonment of journalists.
The letter was also sent to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and other government officials.
Human Rights barrister Amal Clooney requested a similar meeting with Sisi in February, but the union has not taken place thus far.
Below is CPJ’s letter to President Sisi.
Dear President Sisi,
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international press freedom organization, is writing to express its concern about the climate for press freedom in Egypt and to follow up on meetings we had last month with several high-level officials in your administration.
In February, CPJ staff members met with senior representatives of your government and discussed their concerns about the press freedom environment in Egypt, including the imprisonment of journalists. Engaging with CPJ on this level was a welcome opportunity to start a candid dialogue with your administration.
In our meetings with Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat, Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Henaidi, Assistant Minister of Interior for Human Rights Abu Bakr Abdel Karim, and Assistant Minister of Justice for Human Rights Affairs Medhat Bassiouni, we consistently heard that Egypt’s new constitution protects freedom of the press and that no journalists are in jail for what they published.
Yet CPJ research shows that at least nine journalists are in jail in Egypt in relation to their work. The journalists have been charged with crimes such as incitement to violence and participation in illegal protests. (The cases, which have been independently verified by CPJ, are detailed in a list we are attaching to this letter.) We would like to discuss these cases with you and ask that you ensure that journalists are not in prison for doing their work, regardless of whether they are members of the journalists’ syndicate. We also seek to follow up on the offer CPJ received from Prosecutor General Barakat to visit the prisons where the journalists are being held.
CPJ research shows that at least 10 journalists have been killed since 2011, six of them since the protests that dislodged President Mohamed Morsi. We would like to discuss the progress in the investigations into these killings and ask that you ensure the perpetrators are held accountable through fair, not politicized, trials. (CPJ has also independently verified these cases, which are outlined in a second list we are attaching to this letter.)
Lastly, we would like to discuss with you how the presidency can support a legislative agenda after the election of a parliament, which would implement the protections enumerated in the constitution. More specifically, we are eager to discuss the use of pre-trial detention, anti-terrorism laws, and the protest law against journalists, as well as increasing efforts to censor and surveil the Internet.
As a next step, we will follow up directly with your office with a formal request for a meeting with our board of directors and senior staff members. Separately, we will reach out to the new parliament, once elected, in order to discuss ways to improve the climate for press freedom in Egypt by ensuring all journalists can work freely and safely without fear of retribution.
Our February mission was an important step forward, but it was only a single step. We look forward to our ongoing discussion.
Sandra Mims Rowe
CPJ Board Chairman
CPJ Advocacy Director
Ibrahim Mehleb, Prime Minister of Egypt
Hisham Barakat, Prosecutor General of Egypt
Ibrahim al-Henaidi, Minister of Transitional Justice
Abu Bakr Abdel Karim, Assistant Minister of Interior for Human Rights
Medhat Bassiouni, Assistant Minister of Justice for Human Rights Affairs
Mohamed Tawfik, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Washington, D.C.
Mohamed Fayek, President of the National Council for Human Rights
Diaa Rashwan, Chairman of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate