The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for media freedom, has written to Egyptian President Abel Fattah el-Sisi, requesting him to provide details about the current situation of jailed journalists Mahmoud Abu Zeid and Ismail Alexandrani and to ensure their release.
In a letter sent last week, IPI expressed great concern over the delay in releasing photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who is known as Shawkan. On September 8, the Criminal Court of Cairo sentenced Abu Zeid to five years’ imprisonment. The decision meant that Abu Zeid should have been released immediately due to time served. However, he remains behind bars and the government has not explained the reasons for the delay.
Abu Zeid was arrested in 2013 while covering a protest at Cairo’s Rabaa Adaweyya Square and has been in prison since then. His arrest represented a severe setback for press freedom in Egypt and his continued detention despite the recent court ruling now raises grave doubts about the rule of law in Egypt.
In the case of Alexandrani, who has been in prison since 2015, there is no information available about the progress of trial proceedings before a military court. On May 22 there were reports that Alexandrani had been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, which was later denied by military spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai.
“We also remain deeply troubled by the arbitrary detention of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who has been jailed for over 670 days without charge,” the letter added.
“There are many more journalists languishing in Egyptian prisons without charge. The lack of legal proceedings implies that the government has no evidence against these journalists and is detaining them to silence independent media in the country,” IPI Head of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said in the letter.
The letter called for Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Ismail Alexandrani and Mahmoud Hussein to be released without further delay and for the government to make public the names of all other journalists who are prison along with the reasons for their detention.