A journalist and outspoken critic of the military treatment of civilians, Rasha Azab, was summoned in front of a military tribunal last week for an article she wrote in the independent daily newspaper Al-Fagr.
Azab is the first journalist to be tried, in a military court no less, for an article published in the wake of the 25 January revolution that saw the ousting of Hosni Mubarak. Al-Fagr’s editor-in-chief, Adel Hammouda, was also called to the same court.
The prospects are extremely worrying for the Egyptian independent media, which could risk facing military trials for exercising their profession.
After her first investigation, on 21 June, Rasha described her conversation with the military interrogator:
“He sure had studied my article quite well, and had highlighted the parts he wanted to discuss with me (…) There are multiple charges but the main one is spreading misinformation about the armed forces.”
The lawsuit was filed, according to Azab, by General Hassan El Roweiny, the military authority mentioned in the article. “So it’s the military leadership that will determine the course of the lawsuit,” she said.
General El Roweiny is a familiar figure of the revolution, as commander of the Central zone and a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which currently governs the State in the absence of a civilian president.
“This is the first lawsuit against a journalist for something they’ve written, not for a political action or demonstrating for example. The purpose is the terrorise journalists who plan on writing about the transgressions and the torture done by the Military Council”, said Azab.
Azab’s article, which remains available online, is essentially a narrative of the relationship between the army and activists, focusing on cases of army violence towards protesters. It is based on public information, as well as on discussions between volunteer legal groups and the army. Azab says she was able to present first hand testimonies of the events she described – acts of torture committed by the army – which had been collected by Egyptian Human Rights centres.
The lawsuit remains pending with the military court.