Last month, Egypt’s leading newspaper editors signed a declaration pledging near-blind support for the Egyptian state and vowing to ban criticism of the police, army and judiciary from the pages of their publications. In a remarkable display of both professional integrity and personal bravery, several hundred Egyptian journalists have now signed a counter-statement rejecting this attempt by their bosses to gag reporters and silence their work.
We, the undersigned journalists and media professionals, stand in solidarity with our Egyptian colleagues in their struggle for a free and independent press. Intimidation of the media has been a central tactic of every Egyptian regime in recent years, and the fight by journalists to resist such intimidation has been a vital component of the country’s broader battle against state tyranny. Egypt’s rulers must know that their attempts to repress any form of public scrutiny or dissent will be met with fierce opposition, not just by local reporters but by the wider international community of journalists as well.
Egypt today is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be working in as a journalist. Although the absurd show trial and subsequent imprisonment of three al-Jazeera English correspondents generated global headlines earlier this year, many other victims of the state’s crackdown on free speech have gone largely unreported. In total, 11 journalists have been killed since the beginning of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, and nearly 70 more, both local and foreign, have been detained since the rise to power of President el-Sisi in July 2013.
At a time when a draconian anti-protest law has condemned thousands of young political activists to prison, when NGOs are facing a web of oppressive legislation restricting their activities, and when the scope of military trials against civilians is expanding, the role of journalists in holding those in power to account is more vital than ever.
Hundreds of Egypt’s journalists have courageously declared their rejection of “rule by one opinion”. We stand with them, and encourage colleagues around the world to do the same by adding their names to this statement –
Jon Snow Channel 4 News, Aidan White Director, The Ethical Journalism Network, Roy Greenslade Professor of journalism, City University and columnist for the Guardian and Evening Standard, Patrick Kingsley Egypt correspondent, the Guardian, Jack Shenker Former Egypt correspondent, the Guardian.