Two prominent journalists in Egypt, who were hit with travel bans earlier this week, will be tried for “incitement” and insulting the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, according to the country’s prosecutor’s office.
On Sunday, Egypt’s prosecutor-general banned the editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper and the head of a satellite channel from travelling following allegations of “incitement to kill the President and fueling sectarian strife.”
And now it has emerged that television boss Tawfiq Okasha and newspaper editor Islam Afifi will be tried for insulting the president. Okasha, who owns the private channel Al-Faraeen, has been accused of “incitement to murder” while Islam Afif, editor-in-chief of Al-Dustour newspaper has been charged with attempting to “undermine and destabilise” Egypt by publishing “false information.”
Last week, Al-Faraeen was banned from broadcasting for a month and received warnings that its license could be cancelled over complaints about incendiary messages aired on the channel.
On August 11 Al-Dustour had an issue seized by the authorities for “fuelling sedition” and “harming the president through phrases and punishable by law.” The newspaper issue featured an editorial warning readers about an impending takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood “emirate.”
Both journalists will be tried before the Cairo criminal court.
All in the service of public interest
While citizens have been celebrating the dismissal of senior military men, heralding a move away from military rule, some have been decrying the “death of free media in Egypt” claiming that Morsi is attempting to seize control of the media and constrain Egyptian journalists.
Morsi has appointed five members of the Muslim Brotherhood to his cabinet, including the new Information Minister, Salah Abdel Maqsoud. His appointment has set alarm bells ringing for members of the media, despite his promises not to use the media as a tool of the state.
“It is not my objective at the Ministry of Information to transform Egyptian television into a mouthpiece of government or other executive institute propaganda,” he said on the Muslim Brotherhood’s website earlier this month, adding “however, together we will aim to fulfil our role, as mass media, to participate, control, contribute and follow-up, all in the service of public interest.”
Control over the press
Earlier this week, three independent newspapers published white boxes in place of editorial comment pieces in protest at what they say is a bid by the Muslim Brotherhood to exert control over the press.
The stand followed the appointment of a number of candidates to senior roles at state controlled newspapers, who are seen as being particularly close to the Islamist group.