They’ve cheered for officials at news conferences. They’ve smeared government critics. Egypt’s reporters threw their support behind a 2013 coup, becoming a mouthpiece for the new, military-backed regime.
But this month, Egyptian journalists didn’t roll over for authorities. In an unusual moment for this tightly controlled country, the media openly opposed a government initiative, one that would have jailed reporters who published information contradicting official statements about terrorism operations.
Egypt’s official press union successfully lobbied the cabinet to amend a counterterrorism bill that would have established the jail terms. It was a rare act of public dissent in a country whose rulers have grown increasingly repressive since the coup. Some reporters say they hope the gesture will inspire a broader movement for a free press in Egypt, as the government steps up its persecution of journalists.
“There has never really been press freedom in Egypt, but now we are confronting a far more violent state,” said Khaled al-Balshy, vice president of the Egyptian Press Syndicate, which led the effort to negotiate with the government over the jail terms.