Though the 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak yielded a new openness in the media, the Morsi government’s record on press freedom was far from flawless. Using the legal framework left over from the Mubarak era, Morsi had tightened his grip on state media and pursued criminal charges against critics like satirist Bassem Yousef. As a result, Mansour said, the anti-Morsi media’s silence after the military coup was “a disappointing sign, because many of those were a few days earlier victims of a crackdown by Morsi and his allies.” But media rights advocates say Morsi’s failings do not justify the military-backed government’s clampdown. “No matter who is in power and who is in opposition, it shouldn’t be a political discussion,” Mansour said. “It should be a principled discussion.”
Moreover, the broad use of censorship and deadly force goes beyond Morsi’s abuses. During the government’s assault on the protest camps on August 14, at least three journalists were killed while covering the violence, including Sky News cameraman Mick Deane, Al-Akhbar reporter Ahmad Abdel Gawad, and Rassd News Network photojournalist Mosab Al-Shami.
At least 10 journalists are currently in detention awaiting trial. These include Al Jazeera correspondent Abdullah AlShamy, who was detained during the crackdown in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square. On Wednesday, ElShamy’s remand was extended for another 45 days. Also in detention is Ahmad Abu Deraa, of the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, a leading reporter and fixer working in the Sinai, who now facing trial in a military court after reportedly contradicting the army’s account of its operation in the area in a Facebook post. Last weekend, two journalists for the liberal newspaper Shorouk were briefly arrested during a police raid on their Sinai hotel after they were mistaken for Al Jazeera journalists.
Though the reputedly pro-Morsi media have suffered the worst of the crackdown, many of the journalists caught in the sweep do not fit the stereotype of the Islamist media. Hasan ElBanna is one of those. Though he supported Morsi, he also blames the former president for helping cause this summer’s crisis. “Sure, the army and Mubarak’s regime were against Morsi. But Morsi was very weak. He didn’t understand what was going on around him. The Brotherhood also bears responsibility,” he said.
Reflecting on the Brotherhood’s rise and recent fall from power, he said, “The revolutionaries wanted revolution. The Brotherhood wanted reform. The Brotherhood is a reformist group, and now they’re trying to be revolutionary, but it’s too late.”