The July 8 Constitutional Declaration provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but it contains a national security exception permitting “limited oversight” in “matters related to national security” in case of emergency or in time of war. The suspended 2012 constitution also provided for freedom of speech and of the press but included a clause stating “control over the media is prohibited, with the exception of specific censorship that may be imposed in times of war or public mobilization.” Private individuals and the government initiated lawsuits under articles of the 2012 constitution and provisions of the penal code prohibiting incitement, discrimination, and insults to religion or public figures.
Freedom of Speech: Citizens expressed their views on a wide range of political and social topics, but there were sometimes adverse consequences. Both the Morsy government and the interim government sought to dampen criticism. Both governments investigated and prosecuted critics for alleged incitement of violence, insults to religion, or insults to public figures and institutions, such as the judiciary.
On June 11, for example, a court in Luxor convicted a Coptic primary school teacher, Dimyana Abdel-Nour, of “insulting Islam” when teaching History of Religion and ordered her to pay a fine of LE 100,000 ($14,500).
On December 14, prosecutors ordered the detention of a man whose 15-year-old son, Khaled Mohamed, was previously arrested for possessing a ruler bearing a symbol associated with the MB. The man was investigated on charges of “inducing” his son to possess the ruler. Khaled remained in detention on suspicion of inciting violence, slandering the army, and being a member of a banned group. Prosecutors also issued arrest warrants against two teachers, Ashraf Raslan and Hamido al-Kheish, on similar charges.
After Morsy’s removal, authorities released as many as 500 activists detained while he was president. On July 6, the public prosecutor ordered Ahmed Douma released from prison. Douma, a blogger and political activist, was sentenced on June 3 to six months’ imprisonment for calling then president Morsy “a criminal who escaped justice.” On July 7, a judge acquitted Douma and 10 other anti-Morsy activists on charges of inciting violence against the MB stemming from the March clashes at the MB’s Guidance Bureau offices in Cairo in which 130 persons were injured. Authorities later arrested him again under different charges (see section 2.b.).
Press Freedoms: The penal code and the press and publications law govern press issues. Authorities pursued several cases against reporters accused of insulting public officials or publishing false information under both the Morsy and interim governments.
Under both the Morsy and interim governments, the more than 20 state-owned media outlets responded to government policy directives. State-owned and privately held media outlets openly supported the government after July 3 in publishing reports depicting the country as engaged in a “war on terror” and Islamist groups, in particular the MB, as threats to national security.
The nonstate-owned media actively expressed a range of views on political and social issues, although domestic private cable outlets expressed unanimous support for Morsy’s removal. On July 3, accusing them of inciting violence, the interim government closed three Islamist satellite television stations: al-Hafez, al-Nas, and Rahma. Also on July 3, soldiers raided the premises of al-Jazeera Mubashr Misr (AJMM), the Egyptian affiliate of al-Jazeera, temporarily halting a live news broadcast. On July 20, police raided and shut the Cairo broadcast facilities of Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam channel. On August 21, they shuttered the Cairo bureau of Turkey’s Ihlas News Agency.
Following critical international media coverage of the July removal of President Morsy and the clearing of the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square sit-in in August, the Egyptian Foreign Press Center reportedly implemented a change in procedures for approving new and renewed credentials for members of the foreign press. The change led to delays, which resulted in almost no issuances of credentials in August and early September. Members of the foreign press who travelled to the country during this time were often unable to obtain credentials during their stay.
By late September, foreign media members said the Egyptian Foreign Press Center had resumed issuing credentials, albeit after significant delays. After the delays, the center in some instances issued only temporary accreditations, valid for under two weeks, to members of the foreign press permanently stationed in the country, forcing them to reapply immediately. As of the end of the year, several members of the foreign press corps continued to experience long delays, often lasting months, when applying for credentials. As a result of the new problems in obtaining credentials, some members of the foreign press corps who were not credentialed exposed themselves to potential legal charges.
The government controlled the licensing, printing, and distribution of newspapers, including independent papers and those of opposition political parties, including the MB-backed Freedom and Justice Party. The 2012 constitution removed restrictions on newspaper ownership.
Violence and Harassment: State and nonstate actors arrested and imprisoned, killed, physically attacked, harassed, and intimidated journalists throughout the year. Six journalists were killed during the year, according to the CPJ.
On June 28 and 29, one journalist was killed, seven wounded, and one raped while covering anti-Morsy protests across the country. Conditions for journalists worsened while covering clashes between demonstrators and security forces after July 3. Security forces and private citizens assaulted at least 40 reporters and photographers during July and August, and authorities arrested or detained 80 journalists covering antigovernment protests, according to Reporters without Borders.
According to the CPJ, on August 14, Moaab al-Shami of Rassd News Network, Ahmed Abdel Gawad of al-Akhbar and Misr25, and Mick Deane of British Sky News died from gunshot wounds during police dispersals of pro-Morsy demonstrators.
On August 19, military personnel shot and killed Tamer Abdel-Raouf, Beheira governorate bureau chief for al-Ahram newspaper, as his vehicle approached a curfew checkpoint near the city of Damanhour. The shooting also wounded another journalist in the car with Abdel-Raouf. The military stated that the car did not respond to directives to slow down as it approached the checkpoint and that it had opened an investigation into the incident. There was no information available on the results of this investigation by year’s end.
On August 27, police arrested four members of an al-Jazeera English television crew, raided their offices, and seized equipment. Authorities released the crew and deported the foreign members the following day.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: On July 3, security forces raided and closed the studios of MB-affiliated satellite television channel Misr 25. They also raided and closed three Salafist channels known for their rhetorical support of Morsy’s government: al-Hafiz, al-Nas, and Rahma. In all these cases, the interim government accused the stations of involvement in incitement to violence.
On September 3, a court ruled that AJMM and three other stations – al-Quds, al-Aqsa, and al-Yarmouk – had operated illegally and were banned. In addition, on September 3, the court shut al-Ahrar-25, the MB’s successor to Misr-25. Al-Ahrar and al-Jazeera had provided coverage of the pro-Morsy demonstrations and protests.
Some activists and journalists reported they self-censored criticisms of the military or comments that could be perceived as sympathetic to the MB due to the extremely anti-MB and progovernment media environment.
Libel Laws/National Security: Under the law an editor in chief can be considered criminally responsible for libel contained in any portion of a newspaper. As in the previous year, however, there were no instances of this provision of the law being applied. Unlike in the prior year, the government did not stop the printing and distribution of newspaper editions on the basis of “national security grounds.”
On July 6, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority instructed 49 percent government-owned Nilesat to block the transmissions of three pan-Arab channels known for their favorable coverage of the MB and Hamas – al-Quds, al-Aqsa, and al-Yarmouk – on the grounds their reporting represented a threat to national security.
In an August 15 statement, the interim government accused AJMM of operating without a valid license and “inciting hatred, constituting a threat to national security.”
On December 28, interim government authorities arrested four al-Jazeera journalists, and government prosecutors reportedly ordered their detainment on suspicion of joining a terrorist organization and spreading false news harmful to state security. The order reportedly listed accusations against the journalists and alleged they were setting up a media network aimed at “tarnishing Egypt’s image abroad and harming its political position.”
Nongovernmental Impact: Nongovernmental actors also attacked journalists and inhibited freedom of expression during the year. According to the CPJ, police and MB supporters attacked at least 14 journalists outside the MB’s Cairo headquarters on March 16 and 17. Members of the Western press corps reported in August that they exercised caution while filming in the streets and took care to avoid crowds predisposed to regard foreign journalists as “spies.” At least one news outlet permitted only local staff to cover protests. Popular hostility toward reporters reduced the quality of coverage, with journalists resorting to filming events at a distance from inside buildings. During the August 16 Ramses Square clashes, security forces protected some journalists from hostile crowds by sheltering them in armored vehicles.
On March 24, Islamist protesters surrounded Media Production City for 13 hours. According to local media reports, the protesters assaulted journalists and media workers and forcibly prevented guests from appearing on television shows. NGO Egyptian Organization for Human Rights director Hafez Abou Seada, whom protesters attacked after he appeared on a talk show, filed a legal complaint on March 25 alleging the protesters had committed a “serious violation of freedom of expression.” The complaint remained under investigation at year’s end.
Internet communications were open and unrestricted, but the government monitored them and occasionally prosecuted individuals accused of posting “insulting” material. Local service providers blocked access to websites containing illegal material, such as child pornography. Courts additionally ordered the blocking of some online content, including YouTube. A criminal court in February ruled the site was to be banned for one month after it did not remove a video considered anti-Islamic. In March, however, the Administrative Court upheld the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies’ decision not to implement the YouTube ban on the grounds that blockage did not fall under the ministry’s legal authority and was too expensive to implement.
On March 27, authorities charged video blogger Ahmed Anwar with insulting the Ministry of Interior, “abuse of the internet,” and provocation concerning a satirical video he uploaded one year earlier in which he made fun of police. He faced a fine ranging from LE 20,000 to 100,000 ($2,900 to $14,500) and possible imprisonment. His case, initially postponed until June 1, had not gone to trial by year’s end.
On October 5, a military tribunal issued a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of LE 200 ($29) to Ahmed Abu Deraa, a Sinai-based journalist working with independent media group Al Masry El Youm, for a post on his Facebook wall suggesting the military was misinforming the public about its offensive in Sinai.
The International Telecommunication Union reported that 44 percent of individuals used the internet in 2012 and that there were 2.72 broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were reports of government restrictions on academic freedom. A degree of self-censorship, similar to that experienced by other commentators, existed when academics publicly commented on sensitive political and socioeconomic issues. In late October protests by Morsy supporters increased on university campuses throughout the country. At several universities, particularly Al-Azhar University in Cairo, security forces forcibly dispersed pro-Morsy student protesters or intervened to stop clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsy. On December 30, a Cairo court banned demonstrations on university campuses without prior approval, effectively reversing a 2010 court ruling that prohibited security forces and police from operating on university grounds.
The June conviction of a primary school teacher for “insulting Islam” when teaching History of Religion was an example of an intolerant climate (see section 2.a.).
There was also censorship of cultural events. The Ministry of Culture must approve all scripts and final productions of plays and films. It censored foreign films to be shown in theaters but generally did not censor the same films sold as DVDs. Citing “national security” concerns, the government in March halted the screening of a documentary on the country’s Jewish community.