El-Balshy is accused of insulting the interior minister and police, inciting protests and calling for the government’s overthrow in Facebook and Twitter posts. He told local media outlets he had been surprised to hear the official announcement about the warrant as he had not received any summons for questioning.
“We call for these charges to be withdrawn,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The situation is serious when the authorities not only harass journalists but also target those who defend them. The authorities must, as a matter of urgency, allow journalists to work normally without fear of reprisals.”
Local human rights groups and media personnel condemned yesterday this complaint targeting a journalist who defends his colleagues. The Journalists Syndicate gave the interior ministry a 48-hour deadline (expiring tomorrow) to withdraw or rescind the arrest warrant.
El-Balshy said on Facebook that the complaint against him concerned all journalists, both those who are imprisoned and those who are threatened with imprisonment, and the cause of media freedom in general. In February, the Journalists Syndicate held a sit-in to condemn the mistreatment of imprisoned journalists and to demand their release.
According to RSF’s tally, at least 23 journalists are currently detained. The trial of Mahmoud Abou Zeid, a press photographer also known as Shawkan, finally began on 26 March but was adjourned until 23 April.
RSF has meanwhile been unable to obtain any information about the current status of Anwar Al-Sabry, a journalist with the Al-Badil website who was arrested by police at his home on 21 February. His family does not know where he is currently held.
Ranked 158th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index, Egypt was the world’s fourth biggest prison for journalists in 2015, after China, Eritrea and Iran.