The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the arrest of Egyptian cartoonist Ashraf Hamdi and demanded his immediate release.
Hamdi, who is known for his animations on social and political issues, was arrested early on January 25 after he had posted online a cartoon video about the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising in the country. The video commemorated the protesters who were killed in the with security forces in Cairo in November 2011. According to news reports Hamdi was arrested at his home and is under investigation on charges of misusing social media and spreading false news.
“His arrest, coinciding with the anniversary of the revolution, makes it clear that the police and authorities have not changed and that this approach is an inherent feature of the police apparatus”, Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said on Monday in a statement calling for Hamdi’s release. “Will the attorney general play his role in protecting the law and the freedom of citizens?”
“The detention of Ashraf Hamdi shows once again that Egypt is a country where dissent and critical expression are not tolerated”, IPI Head of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “We call on the authorities to immediately release Mr. Hamdi, who, in addition to being arbitrarily deprived of his freedom, now faces an additional health threat being locked up in Egypt’s crowded facilities as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.”
Hamdi’s YouTube channel, called Egyptoon, where he posts humorous videos commenting on the situation in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, has over three million subscribers. Previously, he worked as a cartoonist for the Sabah Al-Khair magazine, which is owned by the Egyptian government.
According to IPI data collected as part of its #PressEgypt campaign, more than 60 journalists are currently imprisoned in Egypt. Last week IPI called for the release of journalists Hamdi al-Zaeem and Ahmed Khalifa, who have been detained in two separate cases since the beginning of January.