Egyptian TV Anchor Referred to a Disciplinary Court for Criticizing Al-Sisi

TV anchor Azza El-Hennawy  has been referred by the Administrative Prosecution to a disciplinary court on charges of insulting Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and expressing personal opinions on her TV show Cairo Today, reported Daily News Egypt.

El-Hennawy was informed about her referral by media reports, as she had not received an official notice from the prosecution.

She mentioned that her suspension during al-Sisi is worse than the previous suspension orders she had in Mubarak’s era. Under Sisi’s rule, she is not allowed to enter Maspero, receive her delayed salary, or even the salaries of the months during which she was suspended, in violation of the constitution. She said that during her previous suspensions, she used to receive half of her salary.

El-Hennawy complained in an official report to the Administrative Court about the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU). This report was referred to the State Council, but the first trial has yet to be determined.

On 28 July, El-Hennawy attended her last investigation session in the Administrative Prosecution. However, no information was provided on when the investigation results will be announced.

“She further suggested that the referral is a response to the report she filed against the ERTU administration. El-Hennawy claimed that the referral is backed by the chairperson of the ERTU’s former Board of Trustees, Essam Al-Amir, who had formed a committee to investigate her following her suspension. She said that Al-Amir had sent a private letter to the prosecution insisting that serious action should be taken against her,” reported Daily News Egypt.

The referral decision came after the director of the TV show underwent investigations over the past three months, in accusations of criticizing Al-Sisi’s presidential performance during an episode with journalist Osama Shehata.

In the episode, Shehata was hosted to issue normal daily news, and El-Hennawy addressed a verbal message to Al-Sisi at the end, in which she criticized his overall performance in regards to improving and developing the country since he took office.

As a result, the TV anchor was accused of “lacking neutrality” and “distorting the presidential image in front of the general public”, as well as not following the episode’s script.

In fact, the TV presenter was suspended before, during Al-Sisi’s rule. In November 2015, she had criticized the official response to the flooding in Alexandria, but she returned to work a month later.

In addition, El-Hennawy was prohibited from presenting her weekly Sunday episode on the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.

According to her, the state TV decided to broadcast special coverage of the national Police Day, rather than of the revolution.

She stated that “Press freedom in Egypt is very poor.  Any newspaper that publishes critical content about the state’s performance or decisions is immediately prohibited or censored.”

According to the Report on Freedom of Speech and Media in 2016 of  Freedom House, a U.S. based NGO that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights, “Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s efforts to silence dissent and shutter outlets affiliated with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood have produced a media environment in which most public and private outlets are firmly supportive of the regime. In 2015, authorities continued to employ a variety of tools against journalists and media outlets that strayed from officially sanctioned narratives, including legal prosecution, gag orders, and the outright halting of operations. Dozens of journalists were physically assaulted during the year by both security agents and civilians.”