BEIRUT

Middle East

Arab press group laments persecution of journalists

Egyptian journalists tape their mouths and raise their pens during a demonstration against the draft constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

NOUAKCHOTT: The Arab Journalists Union on Monday lamented legal threats and restrictions affecting reporters working in the region, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia.

The AJU "denounces legal proceedings targeting journalists in all Arab countries and expresses solidarity with colleagues in Egypt and Tunisia," it said in a final declaration following a meeting in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.

The AJU said journalists in the Arab Spring countries were frequently prosecuted and jailed, saying the uprisings should have led instead to a strengthening of press freedoms.

The body said Egyptian journalists were prevented from working freely and condemned "legal proceedings that have affected some of them". It similarly condemned Tunisia, calling for authorities there to guarantee freedom of the press.

"We express deep concern for the situation facing journalists and the press ... in these countries ... where people have expressed their ardent desire for general freedoms," it said.

Last month, Reporters Without Borders and other rights groups sent an open letter to Tunisian authorities demanding the safety of journalists, saying death threats and physical attacks have escalated in the country after the February murder of anti-Islamist opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

"Tunisia has witnessed an unprecedented campaign of death threats against journalists, writers and media workers critical of the ruling Ennahda Party and its handling of recent events," it said, adding that a group linked to the party had issued a "death list" of critics.

It also said security forces "had deliberately targeted" journalists.

In Egypt, legal complaints against journalists have soared since President Mohamed Morsi assumed office last year, casting doubt on his commitment to freedom of expression -- a key demand of the uprising that toppled his predecessor Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

In March, political satirist Bassem Youssef was questioned for several hours after poking fun at the president on his popular TV show.

Morsi has said the complaints against the comedian -- who was later freed on bail -- did not come from the presidency, but from citizens who were offended by the show.

 

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