Journalism or Terrorism? Egypt Blurs the Distinction

by Vins

In Egypt, the line drawn between independent journalism and soft terrorism is becoming increasingly narrow. Since December 2013, Egypt has been cracking down on news reporters, arresting more than 60 individuals from credible independent sources, including reporters from Democracy Now! and Al Jazeera, and charging them with terrorism-related crimes–a first in Egypt’s history. An interview with Sharif Abdel Kouddous, a correspondent from Democracy Now! in Cairo, reveals that the journalists are being held in 24-hour solitary confinement without access to beds, books, or even sunlight. The only break from their cells is to be interrogated. These recent journalist arrests are a reflection of a larger media blackout, a governmental attempt to silence dissenting voices.

With violence occurring throughout Egypt, including Cairo, government officials are scrambling to keep media on the side of the military. Unfortunately for them, it is becoming increasingly difficult as the violence continues ramping up – suicide bombings, riots, and other forms of violence are erupting in their cities. Much of the violence seems to stem from political tensions between the current Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood, who have denounced the attacks, claiming no involvement. Since Egypt designated it a terrorist organization in December 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood have faced significant pressures, ranging from arrests to Al Jazeera’s coverage of them, to silence their voices.

Until recently there was no coverage by US corporate media of these detentions, but toward the end of February 2014 some corporate news outlets have provided recognized the story. For example, CNN’s Sarah Sidner and her team reported on three Al Jazeera journalists set to appear in court (Sidner, et al., “Egypt: Detained Al Jazeera Journalists Appear in Court as Trial Opens”, CNN, February 21, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/20/world/meast/egypt-detained-journalists/) and made reference to there being twenty more still in custody. However the CNN report failed to acknowledge the larger silencing of independent news journalism as a strategic tactic for withholding information from the public, in favor of sensationalizing the story of one particular journalist named, Peter Greste of Al Jazeera English.

The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Egypt the third deadliest country for journalists in 2013 and among the world’s top ten worst jailers of journalists.

Sources:

Sharif Abdel Kouddous, “Independent Journalism Now Considered ‘Terrorism’ in Egypt” The Real News, February 4, 2014, http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11426.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous, “The War on Journalists,” Mada Masr, February 1, 2014, http://madamasr.com/content/war-journalists.

Sidner et. Al, “Egypt: Detained Al Jazeera Journalists Appear in Court as Trial Opens”, CNN, February 21, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/20/world/meast/egypt-detained-journalists/

Student Researcher: Nick Moore-Hunley (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Suzel Bozada-Deas (Sonoma State University)