The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its grave concern at the increasing targeting and mistreatment of journalists critical of the government in Egypt.
According to reports, Egyptian security forces are continuing to detain and harass journalists working for news outlets critical of Egypt's interim government and in support of the protests organised by the Muslim Brothers, particularly Al Jazeera and its affiliates, while there have been raids on media offices and TV channels have been forced to close.
In the latest development yesterday, a Cairo court has ordered the closure of four TV channels, including Al-Jazeera Mushaber Misr and Ahrar 25, a network belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. The other two channels to be closed are the Islamist broadcasters Al-Yarmuk and Al-Quds.
According to the court ruling, the court ordered the responsible authorities to censor and stop their transmissions based on the content and materials they were broadcasting, with a section of the ruling stating that Al-Jazeera Mushaber Misr, jointly with the other media, had "...invented and distorted facts, spread false news, broadcasted false and manipulated scenes to mobilize the outside world against Egypt and inviting foreign powers to occupy Egypt."
The court order follows the detainment of four Al Jazeera English journalists last Tuesday, 27 August. Al Jazeera correspondent Wayne Hay, cameraman Adil Bradlaw, and producers Russ Finn and Baher Mohammed, were detained while covering events in Cairo. They were freed without charge on Sunday 1 September after being held for five days.
However, three other Al Jazeera journalists are still being held by the Egyptian authorities. Shihab Eldinn Shaarawi, an executive producer with Al Jazeera Mubasher, was arrested on Friday morning, 30 August, while Al Jazeera correspondent Abdullah al-Shami has been held since 14 August, and Mohamed Bard, a cameraman for Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, has been detained for over a month.
"We are shocked and deeply concerned at this continued crackdown by Egyptian authorities aimed particularly at media deemed to be supporting the political opposition, arresting its journalists and closing down TV stations," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "We call on the Egyptian government to release those journalists being detained with immediate effect.
"These actions directly violate the right to freedom of movement and expression of media in Egypt."
There have also been reports of further government action against Al Jazeera. Last Thursday, 29 August, the Egyptian Ministry of Invest issued a statement saying it would ban Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr, the network's Egyptian affiliate because it did not have the required legal permits, stating that the channel was "spreading lies and rumours damaging to Egyptian national security and unity."
While the following day, Friday 30 August, the Ministry of Interior, said it had confiscated two broadcasting cars and equipment from Al-Jazeera Mubashir.
"We call on the authorities in Egypt to respect media freedom in the country," said IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa. "Regardless of political views, it is vital that the right to freedom of expression in Egypt is upheld, particularly during this period of upheaval and change."