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December 5, 2019 - Updated on December 6, 2019

Egypt continues biggest wave of arrests of journalists since 2014

The list of journalists arrested in Egypt since the start of a wave of anti-government protests in September keeps on getting longer, with four more arrests in the past ten days. This is the biggest crackdown on media personnel since the protests that followed Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s takeover as president in 2014, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says.

Solafa Magdy, Hossam El-Sayyad, Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Shaker are the latest to be detained. In all, at least 22 journalists have been arrested since the protests began in late September, according to RSF’s tally. Of the 22, only eight have been released.

 

Magdy, a freelance reporter, El-Sayyad, a photojournalist who is Magdy’s husband, and Salah, a blogger, were arrested in a Cairo café on 26 November, while Shaker, the editor of the Rosa El-Youssef newspaper, was arrested at his home in Toukh, 35 km north of Cairo, on 28 November.

 

Magdy, El-Sayyad and Salah are friends of Esraa Abdel Fattah, a journalist held since 12 October, and they had drawn attention to the fact that she was tortured during interrogation after her arrest. Like Fattah, Magdy was beaten and insulted after arrest for refusing to give her interrogators the password to her Facebook account.

 

A state security court has placed all four in preventive detention on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist group and, in Magdy’s case, also spreading false news.

 

“The rate at which journalists are being arrested is unprecedented since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became president,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The fact this crackdown on media personnel is continuing although the street protests have been suppressed is all the more worrying.”

 

Magdy, El-Sayyad and Salah are known internationally for their coverage of protests and because they themselves participated in the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Many people around the world have launched campaigns calling for their immediate release.

 

They were arrested just two days after a high-profile raid on the Cairo-based online newspaper Mada Masr, one of Egypt’s few remaining independent media outlets, in which four of its journalists were held for several hours. The raid was prompted by an article about President Sisi’s son.

 

Egypt is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.