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Journalists and bloggers among 12 people to appear before military courts

(RSF/IFEX) - 9 March 2012 - Reporters Without Borders objects to the decision to bring two journalists and two activist bloggers before military courts to face charges of harming the army's image and seeking to overthrow the state.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has demonstrated once again its willingness to muzzle media workers, who are the repeated victims of military oppression,” the press freedom organization said.

“This organization openly condemns the use of military courts to try journalists and bloggers and demands the charges against them be dropped immediately.”

As a result of more than 700 complaints, the public prosecutor decided yesterday to bring 12 people before military courts, including two journalists from the station ON TV, Rim Magued and Yosri Fouda, activists such as the bloggers Nawara Ngem and Wael Ghoneim, as well as the writer Alaa Al-Aswani.

They are being prosecuted for attempting to overthrow the state and damaging the reputation of the armed forces, which was seen as the reason for referring the prosecutions to a court martial. By using this process, the Egyptian authorities seriously undermine the right to a fair trial. These machinations orchestrated by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces are a denial of justice.

Magued was previously summoned before the military prosecutor on 31 May 2011, after he criticized the Council. The journalist Nabil Sharaf Al-Din and the blogger Hossam Al-Hamalawy appeared on his talk show where they accused the military police of abuses and human rights violations during the crackdown on demonstrations.

Last October, the journalist Yosri Fouda decided not to broadcast his programme on ON TV, which was devoted to an interview with the writer Alaa Al-Aswani, as a protest against growing censorship.

The authorities have tried several times to censor and intimidate ON TV. On 4 October last year, the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones issued a formal warning to the satellite station, accusing it of violating the terms of the Investment Guarantees and Incentives Act as regards programme content.

On 19 December, the station's head office was raided by armed troops while it was broadcasting a report on the violence in Tahrir Square. Several video cameras were seized.

Reporters Without Borders also deplores acts of violence against a number of journalists on 14 February while they were covering a demonstration outside the interior ministry.

Mahmoud Al-Ghazaly, a correspondent for the station Nile News, lost an eye when riot police opened fire at face level. Mohamed Jawdat, a photographer for the news website Rassd News Network, was attacked by police when he started filming the demonstration. He immediately showed his press card to the security forces, who confiscated his camera and his mobile phone.

Mustafa Ala'a-ed'din, a photographer for the same network, was also held for questioning when he tried to obtain news of his arrested colleague from officers at the ministry. His mobile phone was smashed and his camera confiscated. The police officers severely beat both journalists with their rifle butts.
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