​UN raises alarm over Egypt media crackdown

February 01, 2014 - 12:41:00 am
GENEVA: The UN’s human rights office yesterday expressed concern over a crackdown on the media by Egypt’s military-backed rulers, spotlighting the treatment of reporters working for Al Jazeera television.

“We are extremely concerned about the increasingly severe clampdown and physical attacks on media in Egypt, which is hampering their ability to operate freely,” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

Colville said there had been a string of reports of harassment, detention and prosecution of national and international journalists.

Egyptian prosecutors Wednesday referred 20 journalists working for Qatar-based international station Al Jazeera television to trial.

“The vague charges, including ‘aiding a terrorist group’ and ‘harming the national interest’ are of great concern,” Colville said.

“These are people carrying cameras, not guns,” he added.

“This has not only placed a sharp focus on the systematic targeting of Al Jazeera staff — five of whom are in custody — since the fall of the previous government last July, but also led to increased fears among the media in general, both national and international, which is clearly deeply detrimental to freedom of expression and opinion”.

Coville said that journalists working for other media had reported being attacked by government supporters after being accused of working for Al Jazeera.

The UN has received numerous reports of local journalists being sacked for reporting on sensitive issues, Colville said.AFP