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Journalists rise up against army gag

Hundreds reject editors' pledge to be totally uncritical

Several hundred Egyptian journalists took to social media Sunday to reject a recent policy declaration by newspaper editors pledging total support to the state and banning criticism of the police, army and judiciary in their publications.

The journalists said that the editors' declaration on October 26 was designed to create a one-voiced media monolith.

Their statement acknowledged that fighting terrorism was both a duty and an honour for journalists but added that the "voluntary surrender" of freedom of expression would do nothing to help the cause.

"Standing up to terrorism with a shackled media and sealed lips means offering the nation to extremism as an easy prey and turning public opinion into a blind creature unaware of the direction from which it is being hit or how to deal with it," they declared.

Security officials confirmed the authenticity of the statement, saying that the journalists who signed it represented a full spectrum of ideologies, from Islamist to left-wing and secularist.

Journalists Union executive member Khaled el-Balshi, who initiated the move, said that the statement had emerged from a meeting on Saturday in which journalists discussed the future of the local media.

Mr el-Balshi, who edits a news website, said that at least 300 journalists had so far signed the statement online.

"It is an attempt to make newspapers speak with one voice," he said.

"The move by the editors of the newspapers was like establishing a political party in support of the regime. They want to end diversity."

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