The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists, has called upon the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) to urge Egypt to release all imprisoned journalists.

In a letter to both the ACHPR Chairperson, Soyata Maiga, and the vice chairperson and special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Lawrence Murugu Mute, IPI has expressed grave concern over the steady decline of media freedom, increasing harassment and incarceration of journalists, and threats against reporters and editors who challenge the government’s narrative in Egypt.

The ACHPR is currently holding its 64th Ordinary Session in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt until May 14 during which the Commission will take stock of the human rights situation in Africa and member states will present their reports.

Currently, Egypt is detaining a large number of journalists and media workers in its prisons, which makes the country one of the worst places for journalists to work, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said in the letter.

Ismail Al Sayed Mohamed Omar Toufic aka Ismail Alexandrani has been held in prison without trial since November 29, 2015. He has been accused of belonging to a banned group and spreading false news. The current whereabouts of Alexandrani are unknown and the government of Egypt has refused to respond to requests about his well-being.

IPI member and Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein has been in detention without charge since December 2016. His detention has been extended arbitrarily, and despite international appeals, the government has neither released Hussein nor granted him due process.

Authorities have not presented evidence of wrongdoing in these or other cases involving journalists held in pre-trial detention. Their detention is renewed periodically, usually every 45 days. In case of Toufic, after his time in pre-trial detention had elapsed in January 2018, he was referred to a military prosecutor – still without charges – instead of being released.

“These and other detentions of journalists are unacceptable, as we firmly believe that freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of any functioning state”, Trionfi said, urging the ACHPR to secure the release of journalists. “A free and independent media is a bulwark of democracy, whereas in Egypt, which claims to embrace democratic values, critical voices are being silenced.”

See the original letter.