Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Egypt Journalists Continue Sit-in in Solidarity With Jailed Colleagues 
Ahram Online
Tuesday 1 Mar 2016

The protest started on Monday to call for proper medical care for at least four jailed journalists whose lives were reportedly 'in danger'

A number of Egyptian journalists continued a sit-in on Tuesday at downtown Cairo's Journalists Syndicate for the second day in a row, despite the interior ministry assuring them that some of their demands will be met.

The sit-in started on Monday to call for proper medical care for at least four jailed journalists – Youssef Shaaban, Hani Salah El-Din, Hesham Gaafar, and Hossam El-Sayed – whose lives were reportedly "in danger."

The four journalists are imprisoned on a number of charges ranging from joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood to illegal protesting at the time when Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was in office.

At least four other journalists are also reportedly in need of medical care, though their condition is not as critical.

The interior ministry responded the same night by stating that the jailed journalists will receive the necessary treatment.

However, journalist Mahmoud Kamel, a syndicate council member and one of the sit-in organisers, told Ahram Online that only two journalists were moved to a hospital outside prison and blood samples were drawn from the two other journalists, who were then returned to prison.

He added that the sit-in is continuing so as to make sure that the interior ministry continues to provide the journalists with proper medical care even when not “under pressure of a strike.”

The second day of the sit-in saw a number of public figures joining the journalists at the syndicate headquarters, most notably leading Doctors Syndicate figure Mona Mina.

Though the sit-in mainly has "minimum demands of protecting the lives of [imprisoned] colleagues," according to Kamel, the journalists also have other, long-term demands, including allowing a syndicate delegation to visit those jailed as well as holding all imprisoned journalist in the same prison so as to facilitate delegation visits.

These demands will be discussed, along with press freedom laws, during the syndicate's next general assembly meeting on 4 March.

At least 30 journalists in the country are currently imprisoned or detained pending trial on various criminal and misdemeanour charges.

The Egyptian government has repeatedly denied that journalists who are behind bars were arrested as a result of their journalistic work.

The authorities have also denied what rights activists describe as systematic violations against inmates inside Egypt's prisons.


Egypt's interior ministry says jailed journalists to receive needed medical treatment

Ahram Online
Monday 29 Feb 2016

Egypt's Journalists Syndicate was informed by the interior ministry that imprisoned journalists will receive all needed medical treatment, head of the syndicate's freedom committee Khaled El-Balshy said on Monday, hours after a strike was staged by journalists to protest the "mistreatment" of their jailed colleagues.

El-Balshy told Ahram Online earlier on Monday that there are a number of violations being committed against jailed journalists, and that some "colleagues' lives are in danger" overtheir respective medical conditions.

He later said on his Facebook page that jailed journalists Youssef Shabaan and Hani Salah El-Din were taken to public hospitals to receive treatment, and that the interior ministry allowed the families of another two, Hisham Gaafar and Hossam El-Sayed, to visit them.

El-Balashy also said that an urgent meeting will soon take place with interior minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar.

At least 30 journalists are currently imprisoned or detained pending trial on various felony and misdemeanor charges.

On Saturday, the Journalists Syndicate released a press statement detailing the alleged mistreatment of journalists at El-Aqrab prison, which is notorious for the alleged abuse of inmates.

The syndicate called for an official inquiry into reported violations against imprisoned journalists.

It also demanded more humane jail conditions, appropriate medical care and family visits.

The syndicate will hold an emergency general assembly meeting on 4 March to press these demands and discuss what it describes as "attacks on press freedoms."

The Egyptian government has repeatedly denied that jailed journalists have been arrested or detained as a result of their journalistic work.

The authorities have also denied what rights activists describe as systematic violations against inmates inside Egypt's prisons.


Journalism and power: Al-Ahram Weekly's experience

Hani Shukrallah
Saturday 27 Feb 2016

Authoritarianism makes for bad journalism — often, very bad journalism. The truism is self-evident and more than amply demonstrated by lived experience, not only in Egypt but everywhere in the world.

Yet, the experience of Al-Ahram Weekly, which this week marks the 25th anniversary of its launch, demonstrates something else, which is that good journalism is often able to withstand the devastating effects of an authoritarian environment and, indeed, push back against it.

Having been asked by my friend and colleague, Galal Nassar, the Weekly’s chief editor, to contribute a little something towards this occasion, I thought of reflecting on this latter not so self-evident but no less true side of the story of both the Weekly and Egyptian journalism as a whole.

Journalism is often described as the fourth estate, which is something of a paradox in view of the great numbers of killed, tortured and jailed journalists around the world. Yet, there is no doubting that journalism is not only a power to be reckoned with, but that it also has the potential of being a pathway to power — and wealth.

This is especially true in our country. The seductive force of power, even of merely rubbing shoulders with power, has been a source of personal fascination for many years, what with sheer chance having made me a fairly close observer during a good part of my professional life.

Former president Hosni Mubarak was not known for his keen intelligence, culture or knowledge. He was also something of a vulgarian, who reportedly resorted to the crudest profanities in addressing his inner circle, both endearingly and abusively. Yet, I’ve always been amazed to see professional colleagues, some of whom were considerably more intelligent and better educated than the ex-president, become nearly orgasmic in their praise of his great intelligence and formidable wit after a single face-to-face encounter.

Being invited on the presidential plane on any one of Mubarak’s foreign visits seems to have been especially damaging to journalistic brain cells, transforming otherwise fairly clever people into blithering idiots.

I have had occasion to see the effects of this most discrete but nearly irresistible charm of rulers, their offspring and their no less powerful, foolish and heartless aides on ambitious colleagues, repeated over and over again. And it pays to be so seduced. I’ve lived long enough to have seen the humble beginnings of many professional colleagues magically transformed into enormous wealth and influence.

Paradoxically, power and influence were to be conjoined with great wealth during the period of “liberalisation” of the Egyptian media. Now the power of the state was to be closely linked to the voluminous purse strings of the oligarchs in bed with it.

Herein lies one of the salient secrets of the Weekly; for whatever reason, whether ethical, professional, political or merely one of having a sense of humour sufficient to see the real clowns underneath the enthralling mantles of power, its founding leadership headed by the late Hosny Guindy was simply not interested in journalism as a spring board.

For the crop of very young, more often than not straight out of school journalists who would come on board to make the Weekly what it is, the business of journalism was truth not power, or as one of Weekly’s greatest contributors, Edward Said, often put it: speaking truth to power.

This article was published in Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper on Thursday 25 February.


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