• June 19, 2016
  • 4 minutes read

Rights Group Condemns Junta Death Sentences for Four Journalists

Rights Group Condemns Junta Death Sentences for Four Journalists

In a serious escalation in the junta’s attack on freedom of the press in Egypt, the Cairo Criminal Court issued Saturday a final ruling dealing harsh sentences against four journalists and two citizens, in addition to jail sentences against others including Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, accused of leaking state information to Qatar.

On the same day, Qasr Al-Nil Court decided to postpone the second trial of Yehya Qalash, head of the journalists union; Gamal Abdel-Rahim, the union’s general secretary; and Khaled Albalshi, the union’s deputy, on charges of harboring wanted journalists. Also, on Saturday afternoon, Musaab Hamid, correspondent of the satellite TV channel Misr 25, appeared in a military court, having been arrested by coup security forces on July 10, 2015.

The Arab Observatory for Media Freedom (AOMF) reaffirms that the sentences handed down Saturday against media professionals is are purely political, aimed at punishing political dissidents, and also mean even less freedom of the press, preventing journalists from publishing information, which is the core of their work, with accusations of spying for just getting and disseminating information to fulfill the right of the audience.

This is the first time an collective execution ruling is issued against four journalists at once in a publishing case. The Egyptian Constitution rules out even jail terms for journalists in such cases (as in Article 71). The court here used the death penalty directly in clear contempt of human lives, and the most basic human right – the right to life.

Having considered the trial and prosecution evidence, AOMF affirms that all the four journalists were supposedly guilty of are matters relating to their professional duties and essential work in publishing information, obtaining documents and data and releasing them to the public.

Thus, these journalists do not deserve punishment for any of these actions. It also is absurd that the Egyptian authorities claim the journalists accused in this case (Ibrahim Hilal, Alaa Sablan, Ahmed Afifi, and Asmaa Alkhatib) were communicating with Qatari officials, but they made no mention of the names of those supposed officials. Furthermore, no charges were laid out against the said officials, which means the whole case is merely a matter of vengeful retaliation.

AOMF calls on all organizations and institutions concerned with freedom of the press locally and internationally for urgent action to save the lives of these journalists, and to save the freedom of the press in Egypt from systematic suppression in the guise of junta justice that in fact aims to turn the media into mere mouthpieces for the ruling regime, stripping away all the achievements and democratic gains of the January 25, 2011 Revolution.