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Thursday, 16 August 2012

Egypt prosecutes journalists for ‘insulting’ and ‘inciting murder against’ President Morsi

IPI points to difference between incitement and criticism 

By: Naomi Hunt, Senior Press Freedom Adviser

VIENNA, Aug 16, 2012 – Egypt will prosecute two journalists for their criticism of newly-elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports.

Tawfiq Okasha, owner of Al Faraeen TV station, is to be tried for “incitement to murder” of the president, while Islam Afifi, chief editor of Al Dustour newspaper, is charged with publishing “false information” that is “insulting” to the president, and which could destabilize Egypt, AFP reported.

“We urge the prosecutors to distinguish carefully between actual incitement to violence, according to universal norms, and simple criticism of the president and the Muslim Brotherhood,” IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said.

The Aug. 11 edition of Al Dustour newspaper was confiscated by court order, reports said. The edition had “warned of a Brotherhood ‘emirate’ taking over Egypt and called on Egyptians to join the military’s fight against Islamism,” the BBC reported.

Last week, Al Faraeen TV was banned from broadcasting for a month, sparking fan demonstrations near the High Court, reports said.  Okasha hosts a television program in which he takes an extremely nationalistic, anti-Muslim Brotherhood slant and evokes various international conspiracy theories involving the United States, Israel and Europe. In June, he accused the Muslim Brotherhood of inventing “Islamic Zionism" on a television program translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which has translated several interviews and clips of the former presidential candidate.   

Both Al Dustour and Al Faraeen TV are reported to have been supportive of Egypt’s military council. The Egyptian military has been accused by critics of controlling the political arena and quashing democratic freedoms and human rights. President Morsi recently moved to curtail its influence.  

Last week, Egypt’s upper house of parliament appointed chief editors to newspapers owned by the state, drawing criticism from members of the media, who claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to control national media by installing journalists with an Islamist background, reports said. Earlier, Brotherhood member Salah Abdul Maqsoud was appointed information minister. On Aug. 9, a number of prominent columnists at privately-owned newspapers left their columns blank in protest, Ahram Online reported.