Egypt must release the at least 57 journalists currently behind bars in the country, the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, said today.
IPI’s #PressEgypt campaign lists nearly four dozen reports and editors currently jailed in Egypt. The majority are accused of terrorism-related crimes, or anti-state or false news offences, in many cases without official charges. IPI’s statistics are based on independent research in collaboration with Egyptian human rights groups, including the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF).
At least 21 journalists have been arrested in Egypt over the past month alone, of whom at least 11 are still behind bars. The latest wave of arrests coincided with the outbreak of small anti-government protests in cities across the country on September 20, with thousands taking to the streets in a rare show of public dissent against the regime of the country’s strongman ruler, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
“At least 57 journalists are currently behind bars in Egypt, making the country one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “Egypt’s international partners can no longer ignore the massive violations of fundamental rights and the rule of law taking place, which undercut any claim to democratic governance. Respect for press freedom must be at the forefront of bilateral and multilateral engagement with the Egyptian authorities.”
The list of jailed journalists includes Al Jazeera correspondent and IPI member Mahmoud Hussein, who has been held since December 2016 without charge. In January 2018 the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention classified Hussein’s imprisonment as arbitrary and said the conditions of his detention amounted to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment. Hussein completed 1,000 days behind bars in September.
Also on the list are freelance journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani, who was sentenced to 10 years in a military prison last year; and Moataz Wadnan, who was jailed for five years after conducting an interview with a member of a rival political camp to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
In recent years Egypt has systematically dismantled the rights to press freedom and freedom of expression, creating a vast, oppressive legal framework to facilitate a crackdown on critical news and information. Detained journalists are subject to massive violations of their right to due process and a fair trial, with many held for years without official charges or sufficient access to legal counsel.