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Egyptian journalists won’t surrender rights to state


Egyptian journalists won’t surrender rights to state

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CAIRO (AP) – About 200 Egyptian journalists have rejected a recent policy declaration by newspaper editors pledging near-blind support to the state and banning criticism of the police, army and judiciary in their publications.

In a statement posted today on social media networks, the journalists said fighting terrorism was both a duty and an honour but has nothing to do with the “voluntary surrender” of the freedom of expression.

“Standing up to terrorism with a shackled media and sealed lips means offering the nation to extremism as an easy prey and turning public opinion into a blind creature unaware of the direction from which it is being hit or how to deal with it,” said the statement.

Security officials confirmed the authenticity of the statement, saying the journalists who signed it represented the full spectrum of ideologies, from Islamist to leftist and secularist. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Last week’s statement by editors pledging support to the government came in response to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s call on Egyptians to rally behind him and his government in the face of terrorism following the killing by suspected Islamic militants of 30 soldiers, the deadliest attack on the Egyptian army in decades.

The dispute between the journalists and their editors is the latest episode in Egypt’s struggle between authorities and their loyalist media who give security precedence over nearly all else and a small but vocal pro-democracy camp made up mostly of secular and leftist youth groups.

The dispute has arisen from the recent erosion of many of the freedoms Egyptians won when they rose up against long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. At the top of that list is the freedom to protest; a law adopted late last year criminalises any street demonstration without prior police permission.

Dozens of activists, some as young as 20, have been tried, convicted and sentenced to jail for organising or taking part in peaceful demonstrations since the law was enforced in November.

A much harsher crackdown targets members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the now-banned Islamist group that has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the state. Authorities have killed hundreds of Islamists and jailed thousands since the military ouster in July 2013 of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.