Egypt must free Tawfik Ghanem who has been in pretrial detention for two years, says RSF
A former news agency bureau chief has just begun his third year in detention in Egypt without being brought to trial – a not unusual fate in a country where 12 of the 20 imprisoned journalists are being held without trial. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for his unconditional release and the release of all other journalists held by the Egyptian authorities.
Tawfik Ghanem used to edit the Islam Online news website and was the Turkish news agency Anadolu’s Cairo bureau chief from 2013 to 2015. He was arrested at his home on 21 May 2021 and was held incommunicado for five days before being brought before a prosecutor and placed in provisional detention for allegedly belonging to a “banned organisation” and spreading “false information” – charges often used to detain journalists in Egypt.
Ever since then, his provisional detention has been renewed every 15 or 45 days with the result that he has now passed the two-year limit that Egypt’s code of criminal procedure places on the duration of pre-trial detention on any charge.
The 69-year-old Ghanem’s plight is all the more disturbing because he has major health problems that are not being treated in the prison where he is being held in the north Cairo suburb of Abu Zaabal. It is only thanks to the visits by his children that he is allowed every two weeks that he gets the medicine he needs for the diabetes he has had for years. His other chronic ailments, which include bone pain, are also being ignored by the prison authorities. In 2021, a prison doctor said Ghanem should be sent to a hospital for further examination for tumours. The authorities promised to do this but never did.
“The Egyptian authorities must stop using provisional detention as a punitive tool against journalists. Tawfik Ghanem is a courageous and reputable media professional who should not have to spend his retirement in prison. We denounce this flagrant injustice and call on the authorities to drop the charges against him and free him immediately so that he can receive appropriate medical care as soon as possible.”
Ghanem was targeted by the authorities because of the years be spent working for Anadolu and the influence he was thought to have had on the editorial line taken by the news agency, especially during its coverage of the coup d’état in which the military seized power in July 2013. Although he finally resigned as its Cairo bureau chief in 2015, he was banned from leaving the country in 2017 and his assets were frozen.
In July 2021, two months after his arrest, RSF wrote to the UN special rapporteurs on freedom of expression, torture, the independence of judges and the right to health and to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention asking them to take all necessary steps with the Egyptian authorities to obtain Ghanem’s immediate and unconditional release.
Twelve of the 20 journalists currently detained in Egypt are being held without trial and at least five of them, including Ghanem, have been held for more than two years. The number has just fallen slightly as a result of the release on 1 May of Raouf Ebeid, the editor of the daily newspaper Rose al-Yusuf, who had been held without trial for more than a year, and Al Jazeera Mubasher producer Hisham Abdel Aziz, held without trial for more than four years.