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July 21, 2021 - Updated on July 22, 2021

UN asked to seek release of Egyptian journalist arrested two months ago today

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the United Nations to intercede with the Egyptian authorities to obtain the immediate release of Tawfik Ghanem, a retired journalist who begins his third month in detention today.

The former editor of the Islam Online news website and the Turkish news agency Anadolu’s Cairo bureau chief from 2013 to 2015, Ghanem is being detained arbitrarily like at least 27 other journalists in Egypt.

 

RSF wrote today to the UN special rapporteurs on freedom of expression, torture, independence of judges, the right to health and 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.

 

Arrested at his home in the early hours of 21 May, Ghanem was taken to an unknown location for five days before being brought before the state security prosecutor’s office on 26 May and placed in pre-trial detention on a charge of “membership of a terrorist group.” His detention has been extended every two weeks since then without either him or his lawyer’s being present. It was only after he had been held for three weeks that his family was allowed to see him.

 

According to the information obtained by RSF, the officials questioning him have taken a particular interest in the role he played during his years working for Anadolu and his influence on the editorial line taken by the news agency since 2013 and, in particular, its coverage of the coup d’état in which the military seized power in July of that year. The news agency continued to operate in Egypt with difficulty until 2015, when Ghanem decided to resign because of the authorities’ ongoing pressure on free media. He had been banned from leaving the country since 2017 and his assets are frozen.

 

“Tawfik Ghanem must be released urgently,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This retired journalist poses no threat to state security and he has always worked with the sole aim of informing his fellow citizens. The terrorism charges have absolutely no basis.”

 

Conditions in prison also pose a threat to the health of Ghanem, who is now well into his sixties and suffers from diabetes, which requires medical supervision and regular treatment.

 

Egypt is ranked 166th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.