Al Jazeera Media Network has condemned a decision by an Egyptian court to reinstitute several of the network’s journalists and TV presenters on its latest “terrorism” list.
In a statement on Tuesday, Al Jazeera urged the Egyptian authorities to “reconsider and refrain from measures that impede journalistic work and restrict freedoms”.
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The network also called on the United Nations and international human rights organisations to pressure Egypt in halting the arbitrary listing of journalists and oppose such violations of rights and liberties.
Egypt’s “terrorist” list operates on a roster that undergoes renewal every five years.
Individuals added to the list are subjected to a travel ban, asset freeze and passport cancellation.
The latest ruling was issued by the Cairo Criminal Court, and disseminated in the official al-Waqai’ al-Masriya newspaper.
The Network described the reinstitution of its journalists on the roster as an “unjust categorisation”, and also called for the swift release of its journalists Rabee al-Sheikh and Bahaa al-Din Ibrahim, as well as other imprisoned journalists in Egypt.
The two Al Jazeera journalists were arrested when they went to Egypt on separate holidays to visit family, and were charged with joining a “terrorist group and spreading false news”. Bahaa Al-Din Ibrahim was arrested from the Borg El Arab Airport in Alexandria on his way back to Qatar in February 2020, while Rabee Al-Sheikh was arrested once he arrived at Cairo International Airport in August 2021.
One of the network’s journalists, Mahmoud Hussein, was released in 2021 after spending more than four years in detention without formal charges or trial.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, said that the imprisonment of journalists should not take place.
“We know that the mechanism for charging terrorism in Egypt is being misused,” Lawlor said in a statement to Al Jazeera, adding Egypt’s “anti-terrorism” law requires necessary amendments.
The Arab Observatory for Media Freedom also denounced the policy of placing journalists on “terrorist” lists, saying it paralyses their media activity and movement.
“These repressive measures come in the context of an integrated system of violations aimed at depriving Egyptians of a free and pluralistic media, and keeping them captive to the one-voice media,” the Observatory said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch, a global rights group, has called Egypt’s “terrorism” list, introduced by law in 2015, “a mockery of due process”, as the consequences of designated “terrorists” were similar to those for people convicted after a trial.
And on the tenth anniversary of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s arrival to power earlier this month, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Egypt has become one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists.
“In the past 10 years, at least 170 journalists have been jailed, dozens of others have been arbitrarily arrested and interrogated, access to more than 500 news websites has been blocked and six journalists have been killed,” RSF said.
Egypt is ranked 166th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.