The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists, today expressed dismay over the delay in the release of Al Jazeera journalist and IPI member Mahmoud Hussein from detention despite an order by a court in Egypt.
A court in Egypt ordered the release of Mahmoud Hussein on May 23. As per Egyptian law, he should have been released within 24 hours. So far, the journalist continues to be in detention in clear violation of the law.
In a letter to the foreign minister of Egypt, Sameh Hassan Shoukry, IPI urged Egypt to uphold the rule of law and release Mahmoud Hussein immediately.
“Mr. Hussein’s imprisonment was in clear violation of international human rights law. In January 2018, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Hussein’s detention was arbitrary and that the conditions of his arrest and imprisonment amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said in her letter. “We urge to you ensure that your government respects the rule of law by immediately releasing Mahmoud Hussein. Press freedom is an essential element of a democratic society, which Egypt claims to be.”
Hussein has spent 890 days in prison. He was arrested on December 20, 2016, upon arriving at Cairo airport and accused of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation”. His detention was repeatedly extended; no official charges were ever brought.
An Egyptian national, Hussein worked as a news editor for Al Jazeera’s Arabic service until his arrest. According to reports, the court ruling called for Hussein to be released under “precautionary measures”. It is not yet known what those measures are.
In 2018, IPI in collaboration with partner organizations, launched the #PressEgypt campaign to put pressure on the Egyptian government to secure the release of imprisoned journalists.
On March 4, Mohamed Abu Zaid aka Shawkan was released after 2,028 days in prison under strict restrictions. Several other journalists and bloggers have also been released under punitive conditions, including having to spend 12 hours a day in police stations. IPI has urged the government to lift these conditions and allow the journalists to lead a normal life with their families.