The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 63rd Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on April 14, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on the Egyptian government to end its practice of arresting journalists under anti-terrorism laws and to review its anti-terror statutes to protect freedom of the press.
The members noted that the broad application of anti-terror measures against journalists impinges on fundamental rights – including freedoms of the press and expression, and access to information – that are guaranteed under the nation’s Constitution as well as on its obligations under United Nations and African Union treaties.
The use of the laws in Egypt to arrest and detain, in some cases without formal charges, have fuelled a sense of fear among media workers, both foreign and domestic.
The IPI membership noted that since the military-led ouster of Egypt’s democratically elected president in July 2013, more than 20 journalists have been indicted on terrorism-related charges, including several Al Jazeera employees now facing trial in Cairo.
Noting Egypt’s significant role in regional stability and as a crossroads between Africa, the Middle East and Europe, members said that the government must ensure that journalists are allowed to report on national security, unrest and dissenting politics without fear of arbitrary arrest, harassment or intimidation under laws intended to prevent attacks or prosecute terrorists seeking to do physical harm.
Taking into account the approval of a new Egyptian Constitution in January 2014, the IPI members urged future government leaders to move swiftly to revamp the country’s laws so that they adhere to the provisions of the new Constitution – specifically Articles 70, 71 and 72 which, respectively, ensure press freedom, freedom of publication and the independence of the news media, and also include protections against censorship, confiscation, suspension and closure of news media.
Additionally, the IPI membership called on Parliament to exercise its independent authority and investigate the use of anti-terror laws against journalists by the security forces and prosecutors.