The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today vehemently criticized Egypt for the arrest of two journalists, describing it as part of a brutal campaign of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to silence critical journalists.

Haisam Hasan Mahgoub, a correspondent of the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm was detained by security forces on May 14, and questioned by prosecutors for several hours. Later, he was charged with belonging to and financing a “terrorist group” and spreading “fake news” that threatens national security.  A freelance photographer, Moataz Abdel Wahab, has also been charged in the same case.

Egypt has waged a aggressive campaign against independent media since 2014. There are currently more than 60 journalists behind bars in the country, according to IPI research.  A number of journalists in prison have not been charged and their detention has been repeatedly extended.

“The Egyptian government continues to brazenly violate press freedom by arresting journalists, raiding media outlets and blocking news websites to stifle criticism, while the international community has turned a blind eye to the harassment of journalists in the country”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “The international community should hold Egypt’s authoritarian regime accountable for the violation of human rights.”

Despite never having been charged, tried or convicted, IPI member and Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein has now spent more than 1,200 days in pre-trial detention in Cairo’s notorious Tora prison on politically motivated charges of broadcasting “fake news” and “defaming” state institutions.

Hussein’s imprisonment has been repeatedly and illegally extended by the Egyptian government in clear violation of both the Egyptian penal code and international law, demonstrating the willful disregard for the rule of law.

In April, IPI had urged the Egyptian government to release all detained journalists amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. A week later, IPI and 80 other organizations wrote an open letter to heads of government of 10 African countries, including Egypt, to release all journalists held in prison in their respective countries.

The al-Sisi regime demonstrated its intolerance to criticism when in March it revoked the credentials of The Guardian correspondent Ruth Michaelson for a report on COVID-19 infections in the country. On March 18, the Press Information Service of Egypt announced that it had withdrawn the accreditation of Michaelson following a report in The Guardian, claiming it did not meet the required journalistic standards.