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Media group says Egypt suppressed coverage of Morsi’s death

By SAMY MAGDYJune 22, 2019
FILE - In this May 8, 2014 file photo, Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt. Morsi’s collapse and death in a Cairo courtroom on June 17, 2019, was a brief rallying point for the Muslim Brotherhood whose influence waned dramatically in the Middle East since the 2013 military coup in Egypt which had widespread public support at the time. The long-running enmity between the Brotherhood and most Sunni-led governments highlights the deep divisions among Sunni Muslims. It adds a further complication to the volatile region, where the split between Sunnis and Shiite Muslims has created rival camps. (AP Photo/Tarek el-Gabbas, File)
FILE - In this May 8, 2014 file photo, Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt. Morsi’s collapse and death in a Cairo courtroom on June 17, 2019, was a brief rallying point for the Muslim Brotherhood whose influence waned dramatically in the Middle East since the 2013 military coup in Egypt which had widespread public support at the time. The long-running enmity between the Brotherhood and most Sunni-led governments highlights the deep divisions among Sunni Muslims. It adds a further complication to the volatile region, where the split between Sunnis and Shiite Muslims has created rival camps. (AP Photo/Tarek el-Gabbas, File)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt suppressed media coverage of the death of former president Mohammed Morsi in a Cairo courtroom this week, a media advocacy group said.

Morsi, who hailed from the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, was Egypt’s first democratically elected president. He collapsed and died Monday during his trial on espionage charges. His death, however, was barely mentioned in the country’s media, which mostly limited coverage to reproducing an official statement, said Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, on Friday.

“The vast majority of Egyptian media outlets just used the same 42-word government statement, without offering their own take on the event and without even mentioning that he was Egypt’s former president,” RSF said.

Most Egyptian daily newspapers only carried brief reports of Morsi’s death buried in inside pages of Tuesday editions. The exception was Al-Masry Al-Youm, which had a front-page report.

Yahia Kalash, a former head of the journalists’ union, said such coverage was expected and it revealed the extent of government control over media in Egypt.

“The media blackout was not a decision by an editor. It revealed the extent of censorship. The idea of media blackout has become mockery and unfruitful,” he said Saturday.

Morsi was elected in 2012 in the country’s first free elections following the ouster the year before of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The military toppled Morsi in 2013 after massive protests against his divisive rule and crushed the Muslim Brotherhood in a major crackdown, arresting Morsi and many other group leaders.

Authorities have also launched an unprecedented crackdown on reporters and the media, imprisoning dozens and occasionally expelling foreign journalists.

RSF urged Egypt to “allow freedom to the media ... rather than seek to lock the debate and minimize the spread.”

Egypt is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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