Mayada: No justice for slain journalist

Mayada: No justice for slain journalist

Journalist Mayada Ashraf was killed in March 2014, and questions remain over the individual or group responsible for her death
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The syndicate of journalists in Egypt remembers Mayada Ashraf, a 22-year-old promising journalist whose life was cut short as she covered the political instability in her country in 2014

Mayada’s charming, beautiful face smiles down from a portrait on the walls of the Egyptian Press Syndicate in Cairo.

Sadly, the portrait commemorates her presence before the tragic circumstances that cut short her career in journalism - and her life.

Two-and-a-half years after Mayada Ashraf’s killing, the actual perpetrator is more than likely not in detention. Instead, many are trying to use her death for political benefit.

Following the military coup in 2013 that led to the removal of the first democratically elected president in Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, demonstrations repeatedly broke out between pro-Morsi supporters and security forces.

Summer 2013 brought with it the horrific massacre at Rabaa, where anti-coup demonstrators were attacked by the military, leaving around a thousand protesters dead, and indicating the deep divisions and violence between the different factions.

During Morsi’s tenure, Mayada was seen reporting from the frontline of demonstrations, eager to follow up the political changes taking place in Egypt.

And the young devoted journalist expressed her opinion on the ousted president and his supporters on social media, showing herself to be a clear opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On March 28, 2014, protests erupted in the Ain Shams district of Cairo after army chief Abdel Fattah El Sisi announced his decision to run for president.

The Muslim Brotherhood rejected Sisi's candidacy and a coalition of his supporters had called for the Friday protests.

“What we said nine months ago was confirmed and the mask fell off from the face of the coup leader with the announcement of his candidacy to 'the bloody presidency',” the Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement.

Opponents of El Sisi expressed their anger on the streets while being covered nationwide by several media outlets with journalists on the ground.

At the same time, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the importance of the role played by journalists when covering demonstrations and the need for states to give them adequate protection.

Braving danger to cover protests

Among the journalists covering events on the ground in Egypt was 22-year-old Mayada Ashraf, who was reporting on the clashes in Ain Shams for privately owned Al Dostour newspaper when she was fatally killed by a shot to the head.

According to witnesses, Mayada was hit by a bullet from behind while she was trying to move away from the shootings.

Footage showing her being carried away bleeding remains online, but fail to reveal the identity of the perpetrator. (warning: graphic content)

The lack of clarity surrounding the incident is being used to rewrite the event.

Egyptian military-run media, being supportive of the government, is using Mayada’s political views on the Muslim Brotherhood to convince people of Morsi supporters’ motive to kill her.

Footage and posts taken from her personal Facebook page are projected to the public as proof of the political differences between her and the party.

However, looking at Mayada’s Facebook page, it becomes clear that she did not only criticise the government during Morsi’s presidency; she continued to express her frustration with the new administration after he was deposed.

On August 14, 2013, she wrote: “Morsi isn’t worth dying for. El Sisi is also not worth giving up our humanity for.

“Not even the leading figures in politics and religion are worth the conflict among us. The government will never change even if we changed the president a thousand times. It is Egypt only that deserves our moment of silence in hope of saving it”

Undoubtedly, different political parties and factions are using Mayada’s death for their own benefit instead of working towards revealing the truth behind her death and securing justice for her and her family.

Questions over government’s role in death

Taking account of Egypt’s interactions with journalists - according to the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ), more than 10 journalists have died since January 2011 - many continue to question whether the government is trying to hide its own involvement in her death.

Her editor and the press syndicate have called on the government to promptly investigate the death to clarify whether Mayada was hit with gunfire from the security forces or from demonstrators.

Head of the Freedoms Committee at the journalists’ syndicate and member of its council, Khaled El-Balshy further argued: “There should be guarantees by security agencies to protect journalists. What we need are new respected laws that assure their safety.”

Speaking about Mayada’s death, he elaborated: “We ask the government to use all legal procedures in order to find the truth about her death. Regarding the circumstances of the protest she was covering, it is known that both the security forces and some protesters were using guns.

“According to her friends, she was shot while running away from security forces - the truth lies in the medical report,” he said, adding “therefore we ask the government to further investigate the incident without any hidden political [agenda].”

Mina Nader, a Coptic Christian journalist and eyewitness to the incident, tweeted the following: “Mayada Ashraf, a journalist at Dostour newspaper, was killed by a live bullet in the head. My testimony as an eyewitness is that I did not see any weapons with the Muslim Brotherhood protesters. Police was firing insanely.”

Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat referred forty-eight defendants to the court on accusations of killing Mayada in March 2014. The suspects are accused of belonging to the “outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group,” possessing weapons, murder, and gathering in the Ain Shams district.

However, the real perpetrator for this crime and the truth behind this case which resulted in the death of a promising young journalist, are yet to be identified and brought to justice.

 

All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2013

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