Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Journalists Are Accusing Egypt of Suppression

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Journalists Are Accusing Egypt of Suppression

Article excerpt

Several recent moves by the government authorities against Egyptian journalists have drawn sharp criticism from the news media.

Several recent moves by the government authorities against Egyptian journalists have drawn sharp criticism from the news media and led to accusations that Egypt's new Islamist president is willing to tolerate -- if not employ -- the same heavy-handed tactics used by Hosni Mubarak to stifle dissent as president.

Last week, the authorities suspended a satellite television channel that featured a program whose host is Tawfik Okasha, a strident opponent of President Mohamed Morsi, a former leader in the Muslim Brotherhood. On Saturday, the authorities confiscated copies of Al Dustour, a daily that has published regular condemnations of the Islamist group.

In other cases, editors have been faulted for tamping down criticism of Egypt's new leaders. And on Wednesday, for the second time in a week, the editor of a state-owned daily newspaper was accused of censoring writers who wrote columns critical of the Brotherhood.

While many people in Egypt argue that new media figures like Mr. Okasha went too far -- seeming to threaten Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood with violence on a recent show -- the government's actions have revived concerns about the methods the Islamists are willing to use to strengthen their hold on power.

"What's happening is very serious," said Hani Shukrallah, the editor of Ahram Online, an English-language site. "We've got an organization that is not interested in democratizing the press, or freeing the press," he said, referring to the Brotherhood. "It's interested in taking it over."

The controversy also highlights the challenges Egypt's new leaders face as they pursue a strategy that alters some features of Mr. Mubarak's authoritarian state, while its foundations remain. Mr. Morsi and his allies say they are bending Egypt's nature toward justice by appointing ministers and aides with reformist tendencies while purging centers of power of the hated old guard.

Mr. Morsi's detractors accuse him of transforming the government to more resemble the Brotherhood, an organization many Egyptians regard with suspicion. He not only preserved the ministry that regulates the media but also installed a Brotherhood member as its head.

Brotherhood members say it is no simple task to eliminate a ministry that employs thousands. And citing ample evidence, they argue that since the fall of Mr. Mubarak, several news outlets have waged a tireless and incendiary campaign to portray the group as bent on violence and plotting a bloody takeover.

Mr. Okasha's broadcast last week was typical of the effort, they said. Delivering threats, he called Mr. Morsi an illegitimate president and said, apparently in a reference to the Brotherhood, "I make your blood permissible as well. …

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