The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today strongly condemned the arrest and detention this week of three more journalists in Egypt in the latest example of the country’s “ruthless crackdown” on independent media.
On the evening of Tuesday, November 26, journalists Solafa Sallam, her husband Hossam El-Sayyad, and their colleague Mohamed Salah, were arrested by plainclothes security forces as they left a café in Dokki, a district in the city of Giza near the capital Cairo.
After the trio disappeared, their families raised alarm and lawyers for the journalists appealed for information from the Egyptian authorities, who initially denied all knowledge of their arrest or whereabouts.
After being interrogated, all three appeared 18 hours later at the headquarters of the State Security Prosecution on Wednesday and were remanded in custody for 15 days, Mina Thabet, head of the policy unit at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), told IPI.
Sallam, a freelance multimedia reporter, who has written for BBC and Deutsche Welle, was charged with joining a terrorist organization and spreading false news on Facebook that could harm public security. She was also reportedly beaten and assaulted during interrogations, Thabet told IPI.
El Sayyad, a freelance photographer, and Salah, a blogger, were both charged with participating in a terrorist group, according to reports. Both are believed to be held at the notorious Tora Prison on the outskirts of Cairo, Thabet said.
On Thursday, state security personal arrested Ahmed Shaker, a journalist with Rose al-Yousef newspapers, his home in Qualyubia. Since then his whereabouts as well as the charges against him are unknown.
“These latest arrests again demonstrate the ruthless campaign of the Egyptian government and security forces to silence critical journalists and eradicate what’s left of the country’s long-persecuted independent media”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “We demand that authorities immediately clarify the whereabouts of all three journalists and drop all charges against them immediately.”
The arrests took place after the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, called on Egypt to respect press freedom. He made these remarks at a press conference on Tuesday following a raid on the news site Mada Masr, widely seen as one of Egypt’s last independent news outlets.
At least 25 journalists have been arrested across the country over the last two months, according to research by IPI and the ECRF.
In a recent open letter to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, IPI demanded that the government immediately put an end to its campaign of intimidating and harassing independent media organizations and arresting journalists.