The Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on a list of “predators of press freedom.” The list is a roundup of 35 presidents, political and religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations which censor, imprison, torture and murder journalists around the world.
RSF published the list to commemorate the United Nations’ International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, observed on November 2.
The register of global leaders is presented in gallery form, with satirical “hunting permits” issued for each of the so-called “press predators.” The data comes from RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom index in which Egypt ranked 159th place out of 180 states.
While Egypt ranked low on the index prior to the Arab Spring, the organization claims that it has fallen even further since Sisi assumed power. It states “under General Sisi’s leadership, the current authorities are orchestrating a ‘Sisification’ of the media and a witch-hunt against the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.”
The “hunting permit” for Sisi reads, “fans of mass round-ups and arbitrary detention include Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected president in 2014 after leading the military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood government in July 2013.” It also includes a “kill tally” of six journalists since July 2013, adding that he has jailed at least 27 journalists and media personnel during his time in office.
RSF states that “the regime hounds journalists with any kind of link to the Muslim Brotherhood,” likening Sisi’s government to Thailand’s military junta, adding that journalists in Egypt are often subject to mass arrests at the hands of state security.
The organization also comments on the state’s use of prolonged pretrial detention and long jail sentences, and criticizes Egypt’s 2015 anti-terrorism law, which requires journalists to report official accounts of bombings and other attacks to preserve ‘national security.’ The report also adds that “many foreign journalists have been deported.”
According to the RSF’s World Press Freedom Index “the situation of media freedom in Egypt is extremely worrying. Successive governments have tried to control the media, and have not hesitated to impose measures restricting journalists’ freedom.”
The RSF concludes that Sisi’s modus operandi is “complete denial.” It cited his interview with CNN in September 2015, when he stated “I do not want to exaggerate, but we have unprecedented freedom of expression in Egypt. No one in Egypt can bar anyone working in media or journalism or on TV from expressing their views.”
Accompanying Sisi on the list of “press predators” are Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Zimbabwe’s longtime President Robert Mugabe, Sudanese ruler Omar Bashir, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korean absolute ruler Kim Jong-un, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, along with the Taliban and Islamic State groups.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has also commented on press freedoms in Egypt, listing it as the world’s second worst jailer of journalists in 2015, behind China. The CPJ wrote “perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt.”