HRW: Freedom of expression under attack from Egypt’s military rulers

Citing free speech violations by Egypt’s military rulers, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday that “the climate for free expression in Egypt has worsened” since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year.

“The past year has seen a disturbing assault on free expression,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Not only are direct critics of the military under physical and legal threat, but so are those who deliver these critical voices to the public.”

Activists had called for a nationwide strike starting on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of Mubarak’s resignation and press for a faster end to the rule of the military council that replaced him. 

Activists say that the ruling military council has used the same policies as did Mubarak’s regime in governing the country. 

The New York-based rights watchdog cited numerous violations against freedom of expression, such as military trials of protesters and bloggers, interrogations of journalists and activists for criticizing the military, the suspension of new satellite television licenses and the closure of Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, the Egyptian television outlet of Al Jazeera network.

Since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took over power in early 2011, HRW has documented security forces assaulting journalists destroying media property during demonstrations.

Other media rights organizations have also documented assaults against journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists documented 50 assaults on and detentions of journalists in November and December alone, according to the HRW statement.

“The SCAF seems to be unjustly prosecuting journalists to obscure repeated brutality against the media by security forces,” Stork said.

Both foreign and domestic journalists have been targeted, according to the HRW report. 

“Security forces arrested Evan Hill, an online producer for Al Jazeera, on December 16 while he was covering unrest in central Cairo. They beat him and detained him for hours,” the report said.

Most recently, authorities on Saturday detained an Australian journalist and an American student on suspicion they had distributed money to workers and incited them to take part in a strike demanding an end to army rule. 

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