The three journalists held for the past two years, the maximum legal length of administrative detention in Egypt, are Hassan al-Banna Mubarak,a young reporter for the Al-Sharqnewspaper, Mostafa Al-Aasar, who reported for the pan-Arab website Ultra Sawtand the Al-Qudsand Al-Arabynewspapers, and Moataz Wednan, a contributor to the Huffington Post Arabicwebsite.
In one of his articles, Aasar had criticized the lack of pluralism in Egypt’s presidential elections. In another article, for pour Al-Araby, he had criticized the authorities for constantly blocking news websites.
Arrested on 4 February 2018, Mubarak and Aasar are currently in Tora prison and both have health problems. The prison authorities refused a request by Mubarak’s family for him to be transferred to the prison infirmary because of chest pains and breathing problems.
Wednan has so far been allowed only four family visits since his arrest on 16 February 2018 as a result of an interview with Hisham Genena, the former head of the Central Accounting Authority. His family say they fear that the authorities could implicate him in another case in order to prolong his detention despite the lack of evidence to support the accusations made against him.
“Two years of provisional detention and still no judicial decision,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The Egyptian authorities use administrative detention as a way to keep holding journalists arbitrarily, and they violate the two-year limit on this form of detention although it is already an abnormally long period to hold someone without trial.”
Of the approximately 30 detained journalists identified by RSF, the overwhelming majority are being held preventively and have not yet been convicted. The main charges on which the Egyptian judicial authorities keep on extending their detention are “membership of a terrorist group” and “spreading false news.”
After holding Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein for two and a half years, the judicial authorities decided to release him conditionally in May 2019, but changed their minds at the last moment and opened a new investigation against him.
Egypt is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.