Middle East

Egypt journalists to be tried for 'insults' to Mursi

Tawfiq Ukasha, owner of al-Faraeen TV station. Photo: August 2012
Image caption Tawfiq Ukasha is seen as a fierce critic of the Brotherhood

Two Egyptian journalists will go on trial accused of incitement to murder President Mohammed Mursi and sowing sectarian discord, prosecutors say.

Tawfiq Ukasha, the owner of the private al-Faraeen TV station, and Islam Afifi, the editor of the private al-Dustour newspaper, will be tried in Cairo.

The move is seen by some analysts as an attempt by Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood to suppress the opposition.

Mr Mursi, who was elected in June, is a member of the Islamist movement.

On Sunday, he ordered the retirement of the influential head of the armed forces, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, and the chief of staff, Gen Sami Annan.

Mr Mursi also issued a constitutional declaration giving him broad legislative and executive powers.

Relations between Islamists and the military have been increasingly tense since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Brotherhood 'emirate'

The announcement about the forthcoming trial of Mr Ukasha and Mr Afifi was made on Monday by a spokesman for the prosecutor general.

Image caption Islam Afifi saw the 11 August edition of his newspaper confiscated

Adel Saeed said that Mr Ukasha, who is also a leading presenter on his TV station, was accused of "incitement to murder" President Mursi.

The spokesman added that Mr Afifi would be tried for publishing "false information" deemed insulting to Mr Mursi and which could also stoke sectarian tension.

Mr Saeed did not say when the trial would begin.

Mr Ukasha is seen as a fierce critic of the Brotherhood and supporter of the military.

Last week, al-Faraeen was ordered off the air for a month and warned that its broadcast licence could be cancelled over the allegations against Mr Ukasha.

Several days earlier, a court order saw the 11 August edition of the al-Dustour - which has been critical of Mr Mursi and his group - seized over allegations that it had insulted the president and instigated sectarian discord.

An editorial in the confiscated copies had warned of a Brotherhood "emirate" taking over Egypt and called on Egyptians to join the military's fight against Islamism.

Some commentators in Egypt say that Mr Mursi and the Brotherhood are now resorting to tactics employed to great effect by Mubarak and his party to gain influence over media policy, the BBC's Muhammad Sukri says.

He says the appointment of Salah Abdul Maqsud, a Brotherhood member, as information minister earlier this month has been viewed as an attempt to wrest control of state media from supporters of Mubarak and the military.

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