Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera on Monday launched a complaint against the Egyptian government demanding $150m in damages for losses due to a media crackdown.
In a statement released to the press, Al Jazeera claims that it has been “subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment, intimidation and jamming of its transmission with Egyptian security forces raiding its offices, shutting it down and confiscating its equipment in addition to attacking its reputation” which has resulted in a large loss of revenue.
The basis of the complaint comes from a bilateral investment treaty signed between Doha and Cairo on 3 December 1999. The treaty guarantees special rights and privileges for companies and individuals from each country to invest and establish businesses in the other.
According to the terms of the treaty, if no agreement is reached between the two parties within six months, the dispute will be taken to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, DC where the matter will be decided.
“The Egyptian military’s systematic violation of freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights since it seized power in July of last year is clearly an important component of the campaign that has been mounted against Al Jazeera over that same period,” said Cameron Doley, an attorney at the London-based firm Carter-Ruck representing Al Jazeera.
Doley reiterated that Al Jazeera’s claim against Egypt is financially based, and not related to freedom of the press or human rights violations.
“Al Jazeera invested very substantial sums in Egypt from the time it began broadcasting there in 2001 and the effect of the recent and ongoing campaign by the military government is that this investment has been expropriated. Egypt is bound by international law to pay just and effective compensation for this expropriation and that is what Al Jazeera seeks by way of this claim,” said Doley.
Al Jazeera, seen by the Egyptian government as supporting the now-illegal Muslim Brotherhood, has faced an onslaught of restrictions by the authorities since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi’s 3 July ouster.
Dozens of staff members from Al Jazeera Arabic and its satellite stations Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr have faced arrest, beatings, detainment, and the confiscation of their equipment.
Three journalists from Al Jazeera English – Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed – are currently detained and being tried for charges related to terrorism and spreading false news. Two additional Al Jazeera English journalists are being tried with them in absentia.
Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Elshamy was arrested while covering the violent clearing of the large pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabba Al-Adaweya Mosque on 14 August. He has been held since without charges. Elshamy has been on hunger strike since 21 January to protest his detention, and family members say his health is deteriorating rapidly.
In previous interviews, Al Jazeera said it no longer has staff members based in Egypt.