Egypt: Journalists Charged For Opposing Morsi

Egypt's new president Mohamed Morsi is accused of stifling legitimate criticism of his regime.

An August 3, 2012, file photo shows Islam Afifi, editor of Egyptian El-Dostour newspaper, gesturing during a meeting at the newspaper's offices in Cairo.

Islam Afifi (left) and Tawfiq Okasha are facing trial after being arrested

Emma Hurd

Middle East Correspondent

Two Egyptian journalists are to stand trial accused of "inciting" against President Mohamed Morsi, in a sign of a growing crackdown against free speech.

Tawfiq Okasha, the host of a talk show on a privately owned TV station, is to face a charge of "incitement to murder" over his vocal opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood leader.

The editor-in-chief of the Al Dustour newspaper, Islam Afifi, will also face trial for "publishing false information" which was considered insulting to the President.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been accused by Egypt’s Journalists’ Syndicate of using the same repressive tactics as Hosni Mubarak’s regime to stifle the media and silence dissent.

The arrests follow several attacks on high profile journalists who are known to be critical of the Islamist movement.

Khaled Salah, editor of the privately owned Youm7 newspaper, became the latest victim when he was attacked by a mob last week as he tried to enter his office in Cairo.

Mohammed Morsi

Mohamed Morsi has moved to place "sympathetic" journalists on newspapers

Mr Salah told the police that he believed supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood had been behind the assault.

President Morsi’s Islamist movement has also moved to install journalists who are known to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood as editors of the country’s biggest state-run newspapers.

The new administration is facing a challenge dealing with the media in Egypt, where many of the privately-owned TV channels and newspapers promote criticism of his government.

Several are backed by rich businessmen who supported Mr Mubarak.

But in the absence of independent regulation of the media, the new government seems intent on using a heavy hand to silence even legitimate criticism.

Amr Hanwazy of the Al Watan newspaper said it was worrying that President Morsi had so far failed to express his support for the "role of a free media in the establishment of a democracy".

The Muslim Brotherhood has taken just a handful of positions in the new cabinet, but among them is the post of Information minister, giving President Morsi’s party broad powers to control the media.

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