Journalists must not pay the price of the confusion surrounding the electoral process by being obstructed from coverage, the Press Syndicate said on Tuesday, the second day of voting in the presidential elections.
The statement was issued by the syndicate’s operations room after it received complaints detailing the prevention of journalists from covering the elections in various governorates across the country. The syndicate intervened in various incidents and communicated with the Ministry of Interior’s operations room on the first and second days of voting.
In response, the ministry’s operation room apologised on the first day, asserting that the violations are not intentional and promised that they would not be repeated on the second day of voting.
However, violations continued on the second day of voting, rising from 19 on the first day to 29 halfway through the second day. The ministry’s operation room repeated its promise on the second day.
A journalist working for private news portal Veto Gate was ordered detained for four days by prosecution. He is accused of “impersonating a prosecutor”. In an incident on Monday night, the journalist had a verbal altercation with one of the people working in a polling station in Giza.
In Alexandria, a journalist working for private Al-Dostour newspaper was briefly detained. He was taken to a police station but was eventually released after the syndicate intervened.
One judge heading a polling station did not allow three journalists working for three different news services to take pictures inside or outside the station.
The syndicate said that it rejects all forms of violations against journalists while they carry out their jobs and called on officials to facilitate the electoral process by committing to the Presidential Elections Commission’s rules on press coverage.
In an incident unrelated to the elections, a BBC news crew was briefly detained on Tuesday, after the police was alerted that they were interviewing the wife of a man who was killed during the forcible dispersal of a sit-in supporting former President Mohamed Morsi last summer.
On Monday, the first day of voting, the International Press Institute called on the future president of Egypt to protect journalists in accordance with the laws enshrined in the 2014 constitution and to release and drop charges against all imprisoned journalists.
Four journalists working for Qatari network Al-Jazeera were arrested 30 December 2013 and are on trial for crimes which could result in the death penalty for Egyptian citizens. Another journalist for the Qatari network Abdullah Elshamy has been in detention since the violent dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in on 14 August 2013 without charge.
In February, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, ranked Egypt as 159th out of 180 listed countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index.
Media rights watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Egypt the third deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2013. Six journalists were killed in the last six months of the year.
The last fatality in the nation was Mayada Ashraf, a 22 year-old journalist for independent Al-Dostour newspaper, who was shot dead in Cairo’s Ain Shams neighborhood on 28 March while covering clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi protesters.
According to CPJ, she was the 10th journalist to be killed since the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign.
High profile events are increasingly risky for journalists. On the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, at least five photojournalists were arrested, and two more were hospitalised with injuries, with journalists being the target of a series of attacks, arrests, and assaults on that day.
During coverage of the constitutional referendum on 14 and 15 January, at least 11 incidents of attacks on journalists were reported by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. On 5 November, while covering the trial of former President Mohamed Morsi, many media crews reported facing attacks by protesters.