PEN International is concerned at risks to freedom of expression in Egypt, following actions taken by Egyptian authorities to shut down Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood TV channel and three other Islamist TV stations affiliated to groups backing ousted President Mohammad Morsi.
The move to prevent pro-Morsi media from broadcasting came after a military decision to remove Morsi from power on Wednesday night, in the wake of days of largely peaceful mass protests across the country demanding political change.
Some of these stations have been accused by the military of going beyond the norms of free speech. But the same accusation has been leveled by others against the media critical of the ousted president.
‘PEN International condemns this selective censorship and even though some people found content broadcast by some of these stations objectionable, that is no reason to unlawfully restrict freedom of expression,” said PEN International president John Ralston Saul.
‘We call on the Egyptian military to allow the Egyptian people to receive news from the full range of media sources and not to restrict news coverage solely on the basis of political opinion.’
The Muslim Brotherhood-owned TV channel Misr25 was taken off air whilst broadcasting footage from a pro-Morsi rally and its managers arrested. Egyptian authorities also targeted three other TV channels deemed pro-Morsi, Al Nas, Al Rahma and Al Hafez as well as Al Jazeera's Egyptian station Mubasher Misr which was raided by security forces arresting several members of its staff. The channel’s managing director, Ayman Gaballah, remains in custody.
There are also reports that the authorities prevented the publication of the newspaper Freedom and Justice, the mouthpiece of the former ruling Freedom and Justice party.
“For years under the former government of President Hosni Mubarak, people in Egypt were not free to express their opinions. It would be a sad day for freedom of expression if the gains of the last two years were to be rolled back now the military has taken over again,” said Ann Harrison Programme Director of Writers in Prison Committee
PEN International calls on the Egyptian authorities to comply with their international obligations to respect media and other freedoms, and to do all within their power to protect journalists and others reporting on the current turbulent events in Egypt. Freedom of expression organizations have reported several attacks on journalists in recent days.
Anyone arrested solely for peacefully expressing their views in the protests should be released immediately and unconditionally.