International media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released its annual worldwide census of imprisoned journalists, including five detained in Egypt.
With 211 journalists imprisoned, 2013 was the second worst year since CPJ started the census in 2000, eclipsed only by 2012 in which 232 journalists were imprisoned.
Turkey was the world’s worst offender for the second year in a row, with 40 journalists behind bars—but down from 61 in October 2012. Turkey, Iran (35), China (32), Eritrea (22) and Vietnam (18) rounded out the top five, accounting for more than two-thirds of all the world’s imprisoned journalists.
The five journalists detained in Egypt include four Egyptians, two of whom who work for Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. The fifth journalist is Turkish journalist Metin Turan who was released earlier this month.
Al-Jazeera’s Abdullah Al-Shami and freelance photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid were both detained while covering the dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in outside Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque on 14 August on accusations of possessing weapons. While other journalists, both Egyptian and foreign were detained and released during the dispersal, Al-Shami and Zeid remain imprisoned without formal charges, according to media reports.
Turan, a reporter for Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), was arrested during violent clashes between supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi and security forces in the vicinity of Ramses Square in central Cairo on 17 August. Turan took refuge in the barricaded Al-Fath Mosque during the violence and was arrested when security forces entered the mosque, according to a spokesman from the Turkish embassy.
Turan spent 115 days in detainment but was released, along with 83 other people arrested at Al-Fath Mosque, on 9 December pending trial.
Mahmoud Abdel Nabi of Rassd Online News was detained while covering clashes in Alexandria’s Sidi Bishr neighborhood on 3 July, the day of Morsi’s ouster. Nabi was arrested with 14 others after deadly clashes left four dead and 84 injured. According to state-run Al-Ahram, Nabi is a member of the Ultras White Knights, supporters of the Zamalek football club. His trial has been repeatedly delayed as he faces charges for possession of weapons and inciting rioting.
Al Jazeera cameraman Mohammad Badr was arrested on 15 or 16 July while covering clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters at Ramses Square. He has been charged with attempted murder and possession of weapons, charges which his lawyer Mohamed Shaaban denies. He is currently being held in Cairo’s Tora Prison.
Al Jazeera, widely accused of being sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, has faced severe repercussions in the wake of Morsi’s ouster. Networks Al Jazeera Misr Mubasher and Al Jazeera Arabic have been shut down completely by the government, and Al Jazeera equipment has been confiscated. Al Jazeera journalists still working in the field are at risk of arrest and violence. Cameraman Adil Bradlow, correspondent Wayne Haye and producer Russ Finn were arrested on 27 August and detained for five days without charge.
Notably, the governments in Turkey and Qatar have had strained relations with Egypt since Morsi’s fall last summer. Egypt expelled Turkish Ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali on 23 November and declared him “persona non grata”—a move Ankara reciprocated within hours.
Qatar had supplied billions of dollars in aid to Egypt under Morsi, money which Egypt returned after Qatari leaders made comments critical of Egypt’s interim government.