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Week of August 21, 2017

Government minders take over news outlet, others blocked
"It sucks, to be honest"

News outlets receive threats all the time. Readers and viewers complain, cancel subscriptions and change channels; it’s expected. Threats are rising. After name-calling and taunts come bullets and bombs. Publishers and broadcasters take precautions. Reporters and photographers receive special training.

Authoritarian rulers fight, notoriously, critical news coverage. The relationship with insecurity is clear. Egyptian authorities are adopting the corrosive strategy of seizing media outlets, often with dubious legal basis. The model can be found many places.

In mid-August operations of Daily News Egypt, the independent English-language newspaper with associated online portal, were ceded to State-controlled Akhbar El-Yom in a round of asset seizures allegedly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government ordered frozen and blocked assets of publisher Mostafa Sakr, owner of Daily News Egypt and Arabic-language financial newspaper Borsa Egypt, last December. Daily News Egypt is widely-read by expats in Cairo as well as travelers on Egyptair. (See more about media in the Middle East and North Africa here)

“Al-Akhbar took over the management, finances, IT, and marketing and we keep hearing that they will also control things editorially,” said an unnamed Daily News Egypt reporters to Jordan-based news portal Al Bawaba (August 22). “So far they haven't interfered but some of us sense that their English language skills aren’t very good so it’s hard to know if they really understand what we write.”

“It sucks, to be honest.”

Access in Egypt was blocked in August to online portals of press freedom advocate Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF), an Arabic-language news and culture website of German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and more than 100 others. That comes after several news portals - from Al-Jazeera Arabic, TV channel Al-Sharq, investigative news portal Mada Masr and Huffington Post’s Arabic portal - were blocked in May.

This week former Youm Sabea managing editor Salah el-Deen was arrested, reported albedaiah.com via cpj.org (August 21), for “inciting protests.” He had been tried and convicted in 2013 for “spreading chaos” and spent four years in prison before the conviction was overturned on appeal. His mistake this time, reportedly, was asking for his job back.

Academics push publisher to reverse decision allowing censorship
What is and is not important

Cambridge University Press reversed a decision made days earlier to abide demands from Chinese authorities and strike about 300 articles from the Chinese online edition of the China Quarterly journal. A list had been sent by the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), which licenses all publishers and distributors in China and enforces rules on what can and cannot be published. Subjects of the excised scholarly articles and book reviews included Tiananmen Square, Tibet, Taiwan, Cultural Revolution and the Xinjiang Uyghur region. (See more about media in China here)

The GAPP demand was received last week (August 17) through an importer, reported Reuters (August 18), and the publisher, it seems, immediately complied “so that its other academic and educational materials would remain available in China.” Cambridge University Press (CUP) is the world’s oldest publisher, founded by King Henry VIII in 1534, and is part of Cambridge University. In a statement CUP said it was “troubled” by the demand to censor and would raise the issue with “relevant agencies.” (See more about press/media freedom here)

Academics and China scholars raised the roof, figuratively. Peking University HSBC School of Business associate professor of economics Christopher Balding started a petition “to stand up to censorship by the Chinese government,” reported South China Morning Post (August 22), which noted that the list of academic articles removed appeared “inconsistent,” suggesting the censors hadn’t bothered to read any of them. Over a thousand people signed the petition posted at change.org.

By Monday afternoon (August 22) the CUP reversed its decision and would re-post the deleted articles “immediately” and free to read, said China Quarterly editor Tim Pringle.

Unimpressed were the Chinese authorities. “If they don’t like the Chinese way, they can stop engaging with us,” said State-owned Global Times (August 21) in an editorial translated from the official Communist Party’s People’s Daily. “If they think China’s internet market is so important that they can’t miss out, they need to respect Chinese law and adapt to the Chinese way.”

Previous weeks complete Tickle File

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