Two reports by two international organisations condemning Egypt under Al-Sisi’s rule were issued yesterday.
These organisations are Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders. In its report, the former accused Egypt of torturing detainees in order to obtain false confessions, accusing police officers of regularly torturing detainees by means including beating, electric shock and rape.
It also stated that this widespread and systematic torture is considered a crime against humanity. The report consisted of 444 pages and the most serious issue raised in it is that the prosecutor general has ignored the complaints of detainees regarding maltreatment and threats of torture, thus creating an atmosphere of almost complete impunity.
These reports are very detailed and include shocking videos and confessions from former detainees in Egypt regarding the brutal forms of torture they were subject to. After these reports were issued, a campaign with the hashtag #Al-Sisi’s_crimes_against_humanity was launched on social media. Local human rights organisations addressed the same issue, including El Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture which was shut down after exposing the fascist government.
However, they are unable to do the same with Human Rights Watch, therefore they felt that their crimes have been documented internationally and have become a scandal. That is why the Egyptian Foreign Ministry immediately issued a disappointing response, which can be described as a weak response, at the very least, indicating how shaken the government is by the report and its fear from its consequences on an international scale. This is especially true after the US froze part of its annual aid to Egypt under the pretext of Egypt’s lack of concern for human rights.
As for the second report, issued by Reporters Without Borders, it strongly criticised the intelligence’s control over the media in Egypt since Al-Sisi came to power. It also expressed its concern that a number of Egyptian media organisations have fallen in to the hands of businessmen who are close to the government and intelligence, explaining that the Egyptian authorities’ control over the media is ongoing and firm, even affecting media outlets close to the government, such as ONtv channel, owned by Coptic billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiri. He was forced to sell the channel to businessman, Ahmed Abu Hashima, who is considered a tycoon in the steel industry in Egypt and is known for his closeness to the military intelligence agency, which Al-Sisi was head of before the legitimate Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, appointed him as defence minister. Therefore, he is also close to Al-Sisi and was chosen to run a media organisation in order to ensure that it remains under the control of someone close and can act as a cover for the intelligence. He also purchased a number of private television stations, newspapers and magazines, which were listed by name in the organisation’s report. However, I will not list them due to the constraints of this article.
As for Al-Hayah television, owned by El-Sayyid El-Badawi, who is president of the secular Wafd party, its ownership was recently transferred to Falcon Group, which is actually a security company affiliated with the intelligence that provides security for universities, hospitals, and several public and private establishments. This raises an important question: What does security have to do with media? Of course there is no link between the two except that everything in Egypt has become militarised, i.e. in the hands of the military. Civilian life in its traditional form no longer exists in Egypt!
The organisation also confirmed that the governing authority has managed to impose its influence on the media scene in 2016 with the emergence of the DMC Network, which was launched amid great attention. Its channels, which include news, entertainment and sports, are actually affiliated with the intelligence and reporters describe it as the voice of the intelligence.
The organisation also mentioned that the government’s tightened grip on the media has been accompanied by increased restrictions in the digital sector. The number of blocked websites in Egypt has reached at least 424 websites, including that of Reporters Without Borders. Egypt is ranked 161 in the world in terms of freedom of press.
This is the situation of the media in Egypt. Like all aspects of life in Egypt and its institutions, it has been in a state of continuous decline and deterioration since the coup and the military’s control of the country’s affairs.
Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh