CAIRO: The Journalists against Torture observatory issued a statement Wednesday highlighting violations against 31 journalists in Egypt during the first half of January 2014.
The observatory said nine cases in which journalists’ rights were violated included beatings and theft of their equipment. Seventeen journalists were arrested while covering clashes, of which five were released, two were prevented from covering clashes, and three are facing judicial accusations.
Journalists against Torture General Coordinator Ashraf Abbas said in the statement that “‘terrorism’ was the scarecrow the government used to repress journalists during coverage … preventing them from doing their job.”
Al-Jazeera correspondents Mohamed al-Omda and Mohamed Saleh were arrested in January, in addition to Hassan Abdulla who was accused of working for Al-Jazeera and inciting violence.
Not only did the government abuse journalists’ rights, said the statement, the Muslim Brotherhood also attacked journalists while they were covering clashes and protests. Journalist Islam Abu Khatwa was seized, beaten for one hour and his camera was destroyed by Brotherhood members.
Abbas called for journalists to be protected during demonstrations expected to take place on the anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, adding that journalists should be allowed to deliver the truth according to Articles 71 and 72 of the 2014 constitution.
Abbas told The Cairo Post that the observatory is delivering legal support to most of the arrested journalists and is in contact with their families.
“Samah Ibrahim, a journalist at the Freedom and Justice Party [newspaper] was sentenced to 15 days [on Jan. 21] pending investigations,” said Abbas, adding that “the observatory contacted her family and sent her legal support, in addition to Fady Samir, the correspondent for Al-Masdar news network who is accused of protesting and inciting violence.”
On the other side, Abbas said the observatory has no contact with the Journalists’ Syndicate because “the syndicate does not strongly apply its role to its registered journalists,” and it does not take actions to protect unregistered journalists.
“It only sends denouncing speeches but does not actually act,” Abbas claimed.
Abbas told TCP that Journalists against Torture is in cooperation with the Association for Freedom of Thoughts and Expression (AFTE) and will form a monitoring room that will be working around the clock to oversee any violations that may take place against journalists during the January 25 anniversary.