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Journalist Shot Dead Covering Egypt Clashes

A reporter was killed covering anti-government protests in Cairo. Mayada Ashraf reporting for Al-Dostournewspaper and Masr Al-Arabiya website was shot in the head by an unknown gunman during clashes that followed Egypt’s army chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s announcement that he was contesting the country’s presidential election. 
The Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) said the last thing Asharaf had reported was that the army was using live rounds to control the protestors. Four other civilians were also killed.

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to Ashraf’s family and colleagues and we urge the competent authorities to carry out an independent and impartial investigation to ensure that this crime does not go unpunished,” said Lucie Morillon, head of research and advocacy at RSF.
With culprit/s yet to be identified, supporters of the military-backed government and the stalwarts of the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed President Mohamed Morsi accused each other of the murder.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that Abdel-Kader Ismael, editor of the Al-Dostour had told a television station that an ambulance were initially unable to reach Ashraf due to the clashes. CPJ also said there Masr Al-Arabiyashowed a video of Ashraf being carried away.
CPJ said that Al-Dostour is known for its critical reporting of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party. CPJ also mentions that Ashraf had called the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists in her latest report.
Eleven journalists have been killed in connection with their work since 2011 and at least four since last July when Morsi was deposed following a popular uprising backed by the military. Egypt ranks 159th of 179 countries in RSF’s Press Freedom Index.
“We call on the Egyptian government to open an independent and impartial investigation into Mayada Ashraf’s killing,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “A journalist’s death should not be used to settle political scores -the focus should be on journalists’ right to safely cover events in Egypt.”

Cyberspace Joins CPJ’s Media Risk List In 2013

Supranational Cyberspace joined the Risk List in 2013, which the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has developed to flag countries where media freedom is in significant decline. Countries that have displayed the most alarming regress in 2013 are: Egypt, Russia, Syria, Vietnam, Turkey, Bangladesh, Liberia, Ecuador, and Zambia.

CPJ said that the decentralised nature of the internet had once provided protection to journalists investigating and reporting controversial issues more than the traditional media. However today, as the documents of NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed, global surveillance by the United States and its allies was a threat to the work journalists do by compromising privacy of their communication.
CPJ quoted Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament and leader on Internet freedom issues: “‘Countries who seek to gain control over their people through the Internet have their own agendas. They are in search of larger governmental control or even censorship online. We must ensure the NSA-triggered debate does not become a race to the bottom.'”
CPJ said other trends witnessed in 2013 include:
  • Deterioration in several indicators, including fatalities and censorship, in Egypt
  • New legislation to stifle free speech in Ecuador, Liberia, Russia, Vietnam, and Zambia
  • Firings and forced resignations of journalists in Turkey at the government’s behest
  • Targeted violence against journalists in Bangladesh and Russia, and a soaring rate of abductions in Syria
  • Crackdowns on online journalism in Russia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh
Please click hereto read the summary; and herefor the Risk List 2013.


Twenty Al-Jazeera Journalists To Be Tried In Egypt

Media freedom in Egypt took a turn for the worse Wednesday, after the prosecutor’s office charged 20 journalists of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “undermining national unity and social peace by broadcasting false information.”
The onslaught by the Egyptian government installed after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammad Morsi regime last year, has intensified in recent times against journalists seen as supporting the Brotherhood. As far as foreign correspondents go, journalists from media organisations based in two countries – Qatar and Turkey – also seen as supportive of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood government have been the main targets.

The Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) said that on August 28 ‘Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr’ (a Cairo-based Al-Jazeera affiliate) was declared illegal and on September 3, it, and three other channels, was closed on the grounds of “threatening social peace,” “disseminating rumours and false, misleading reports” and “inciting hatred and public disorder.”
On September 10, the Cairo offices of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) were raided by the police. Mounting intimidation led to TRT suspending its operations temporarily, said RSF.
RSF said of the 20 journalists, 16 who are Egyptian have been charged for membership of a terrorist organisation. The other four are Australian Peter Greste, two Britons and a Dutch citizen. They are charged with “collaborating with [these] Egyptians by provide them with money, equipment and information (…) and broadcasting unreal scenes to give the impression to the outside world that there is a civil war.”
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said “This is the first instance of terror-related charges against journalists and foreigners since the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in December. Al-Jazeera has denied the charges, demanding its reporters be freed.”
Of the 20, eight are already in custody the others have been declared as fugitives by the Egyptian government.
IFJ said Greste, a Peabody Prize winning Australian journalist and former BBC correspondent had written emotional letters, smuggled out of prison, about the conditions in which he and his colleagues are held.  
“In the letters, he said that he had his first walk in the ‘weak winter sunshine’ after spending ten days being locked in his cell 24 hours a day when not being questioned, while he expressed his fear that writing the letters might result in his harsh treatment, saying: ‘I am nervous as I write this. I am in my cold prison cell after my first official exercise session – four glorious hours in the grass yard behind our block and I don’t want that right to be snatched away.”
He said that his two colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were held in worse conditions as they were accused of membership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Wrote Greste: “Both men spend 24 hours a day in their mosquito-infested cells, sleeping on the floor with no books or writing materials to break the soul-destroying tedium.”
“This attempt to criminalize legitimate journalistic work is what distorts Egypt’s image abroad. The government’s lack of tolerance shows that it is unable to handle criticism,” said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “We call on authorities to drop these outrageous charges and release all journalists from jail immediately.”
IFJ and its affiliate Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance have also published statements and written letters demanding the release of the Al-Jazeera journalists.

Egyptian Military’s Attack Leaves Two Journalists Dead

While two journalists were shot dead and at least as many injured when the Egyptian military stormed pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo, Wednesday, an incident last week, resulted in Muslim Brotherhood supporters detaining and assaulting two reporters.
BBC reported that Mick Deane (61), a cameraman working for Sky News was killed while covering the military storming the sit-in protest by supporters of ousted Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, near Rabaa al-Adawiya. Meanwhile Gulf News confirmed that Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz (26), a journalist with its sister publication Xpress was also killed. Abd Elaziz was not official duty. Both were shot dead.  
In other reports of violence, the Huffington Post carried the tweet of Mike Giglio of the Daily Beast, who tweeted, “I’m fine and thanks to all for the concern. Was arrested, beaten by security forces at Rabaa and then held at a local arena. Just out now.”  Huffington Post also reports a tweet from freelance journalist Haleem Elsharani that a Reuters journalist was wounded in the attack: “Reuters photojournalist Asmaa Waguih is being moved to the international medical center after she was shot in the leg.”
BBC said, “Sky’s foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall described Deane as ‘a friend, brave as a lion but what a heart… what a human being … He died doing what he’d been doing so brilliantly for decades.'”
In a separate story BBC commented that reports by Egypt’s media on the attacks was polarised depending on whether they backed the deposed president, or the military that overthrew him. “State-run media and some private TV stations are fiercely anti-Morsi, stressing that his supporters were armed and have caused casualties among the police. Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated stations, on the other hand, reserve their ire for the army that deposed the president. They highlight deaths among the protesters, showing gruesome pictures of the dead and wounded.”
This does not mean Morsi’s supporters are cleaner. An August 12 statement by Reporters without Borders (RSF) highlights the experience of two reporters seized and beaten up by supporters of Morsi while covering a march to Nahda Square on August 9. RSF said that Mohamed Momtaz of the newspaper Veto had his camera seized and assaulted repeatedly. He was then dragged to a vehicle, forced to undress and interrogated as a spy. Aya Hassan of Youm 7, who was photographing the incident, was also dragged away, blindfolded and assaulted while under interrogation. “During interrogation, she was ordered to admit political affiliation and to provide the names of people she knew in the interior ministry, the armed forces and in the opposition to Morsi,” RSF said.
Hassan’s account posted on YouTube of the assault as transcribed by RSF: “‘One of the men dragged me by my hair along the ground into an adjacent tent,” she said. “He kicked me in the face until my nose began to bleed. He then gave me a piece of cloth covered in blood, and warned me that I was going to suffer the same fate as the person who had been punished in this place before me.’The Union of Journalists said he was apparently referring to Momtaz.”
The RSF statement also gives another instance of pro-Muslim Brotherhood activists disrupting the work of a journalist. Ironically she worked for Sky News. “On 8 August, for example, Muslim Brotherhood supporters interrupted Sky News correspondent Rufyada Yassin while she was covering a demonstration live,” RSF said.

The Egyptian government has declared an emergency for one month following the violence in Cairo and elsewhere. Media freedom, if anything, will continue to be in great peril.

Blogging in Egypt a Dangerous Endeavor

Egypt is rapidly becoming one of the worst places to blog. The country has been placed on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) “Ten Worst Countries to be a Blogger” list, alongside other well-known culprits such as China, Iran, and Cuba. And this last week alone, three bloggers were detained and held without charge.

Abdel Rahman Ayyash (Al-Ghareeb) and Magdi Saad (Yalla Mesh Mohem) were arrested at the Cairo airport on July 21, 2009 after returning from trips abroad. Ahmad Abu Khalil (Bayarek) was arrested at his home after an early morning raid by security forces. To date, Ayyash is believed to be held by security forces in Mansoura while Saad is being detained at security forces headquarters in Cairo. Khalil’s whereabouts remain unknown.

These arrests occurred three weeks after one of Egypt’s most famed blogger, Wael Abbas, was detained for a day at the Cairo Airport while returning from Sweden, where he had openly criticized the Egyptian government. Abbas is one of Egypt’s leading bloggers and his blog, Misr Digit@l , averages a million visits a month. Abbas, an IT specialist, began blogging in 2005 but shot to blogosphere fame in 2007 when he posted video of police officers carrying out acts of torture in a police station. Abbas’ blog post led to the rare arrest and conviction of the police officers involved, and inspired many Egyptians to begin blogging. But he has also encountered increasing persecution for his blogging activities.

Most recently, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced that the organization had been helping Tamber Mabrouk and his family after Mabrouk was singled out for denouncing his employer, Trust Chemical Industries’, dumping of untreated waste water. As a result of Mabrouk’s posts on his employer’s practices, as well as other corruption within the Egyptian Government, Mabrouk lost his job, was forced to leave his apartment after he was threatened with eviction, and was ordered to pay a 6,000 euro fine, more than 100 times the average monthly wage in Europe. RSF has been providing financial support to Mabrouk and his family while he struggles to find new employment.

The word “blog” is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer ; also : the contents of such a site.” In 2004, the word was picked as Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year” after topping the list of most looked-up terms ,and in 2005, it was officially included in the dictionary. At it’s essence, a blog, along with the multitude of free blog-hosting websites in existence today, offer the citizen journalist ample opportunity to share thoughts and information with the rest of the world. Blogs represent the best use of modern technology encouraging the free flow of expression. Any restriction imposed on blogging, and any reprimand for blogging activities, constitute an egregious violation of freedom of expression and significantly lessen the quality of a free flow of ideas worldwide.