Long before the revolution, journalists were fighting hard for the rights presumably won in 2011. Egypt’s 1952 coup d’état against British colonialism came at the expense of a once vibrant and heterogeneous media. Then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser banned a multi-party system and imposed strict government regulations over the country’s media organizations. Political parties were phased back into the system during the presidency of Anwar Sadat, but journalists who criticized the government still faced strict penalties. In the decades that followed, low-paid journalists battled jail, beatings, sexual assault, and torture. And while there was an effort to develop journalistic professionalism, the pre-revolution media landscape offered few opportunities.
This month, a number of journalists were targeted in violent uprisings outside Cairo’s Media City after protesters tried to penetrate blockades and ransack the studios of several independent television networks. At least 13 journalists were also attacked in Cairo and Alexandria last week as protesters for-and-against reforming the country’s judiciary faced off.
Newspapers and broadcasters loyal to the new Muslim Brotherhood regime assert that they are receiving similar harassment from the liberal media, and insist that the leftist media is looking to topple the regime.
“While all parties in Egypt should halt the attacks on journalists covering political events, President Mohamed Morsi has a special obligation to demand that his supporters stop this behavior,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement last week. “The evidence shows that most of these assaults are being committed by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have established a months-long pattern of intimidating and harassing the news media.”