US takes a swipe at Egypt's treatment of journalists

US takes a swipe at Egypt's treatment of journalists
The American ambassador to the UN on Wednesday took aim at Egypt's treatment of journalists, during a Security Council debate chaired by Cairo's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry.
2 min read
12 May, 2016
'I'm a journalist, not a terrorist' read a banner at a protest in Cairo [AFP]

The US ambassador to the UN on Wednesday took a swipe at Cairo's treatment of journalists, during a Security Council meeting chaired by Egypt.

Ambassador Samantha Power told the Security Council that counter-terrorism measures "should never be used as an excuse to suppress political dissent" and that jailing journalists was "counter-productive."

The 15-member council was holding a special debate on confronting terrorism ideologies chaired by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, whose country holds the council presidency this month.

Egypt's Press Syndicate this month accused the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of being "at war" with the media after two reporters were accused of incitement.

A total of 29 journalists are behind bars in Egypt, some of whom have been held in custody for nearly three years, according to the Syndicate.

Without referring specifically to Egypt, Power told the council that "arresting journalists, sentencing reporters to death; treating media as an enemy of the state - such actions are thoroughly counterproductive."

"The media is an ally when it comes to showing the truth about terrorist groups," she added.

On Saturday, an Egyptian court sentenced six people to death including two Al Jazeera journalists, who were accused of leaking state secrets to Qatar.

Among them was Asmaa Mohamed al-Khatib, an Egyptian journalist with the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rassd news outlet.

"I did not expect the judiciary's blatant injustice against journalists and opponents would go that far," she told The New Arab.

"Journalism has become a crime in Egypt, faced with all kinds of terror," she said. She described herself as living in a "frightening nightmare".

The 25-year-old currently lives in Turkey with her husband and six-month-old son.

"I do not think of returning to Egypt," she said. "I want to raise my son in peace without fears of prison or murder or intimidation by a tyrant regime."

Asked about the US ambassador's statement, Shoukry told reporters that Power's remarks were not directed at Egypt but, adding that the ambassador was off-topic.

"I think it is important that we keep a focus and that we send a clear message and not confuse issues related to the battle against terrorism with other issues," said the foreign minister.

Human rights activists accuse Sisi of running an ultra-authoritarian regime that has violently suppressed all opposition since toppling Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Shoukry denied there had been arbitrary arrest of journalists in Egypt.

"We believe that journalism is an important contributor to the development of Egypt," he said.