RSF welcomes release of two Egyptian journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes this week’s release of two Egyptian journalists – a newspaper editor and a producer with the Qatari TV news broadcaster Al Jazeera – but points out that Egypt continues to hold 20 other journalists.
Raouf Ebeid, the editor of the daily newspaper Rose al-Yusuf, who had been held provisionally since July 2022, and Hisham Abdel Aziz, a producer with the Al Jazeera Mubasher channel, who had been held provisionally since June 2019, were released on 1 May. The 20 other journalists still detained in Egypt include two other Al Jazeera Mubasher journalists, Bahaa El-Din Ibrahim and Rabie el Sheikh.
“We welcome the release of Raouf Ebeid and Hisham Abdel Aziz, who spent far too long in a provisional detention limbo, but we stress the urgent need to end the systematic harassment of journalists in Egypt, and we call for the release of the two other Al Jazeera Mubasher journalists and 18 other journalists who are still in prison.”
Aziz ended up being detained provisionally for nearly three years following his arrest shortly after arriving in Cairo on 20 June 2019 with his family on a flight from Qatar, where he was based, with the aim of seeking medical care. He was questioned by security officials at the airport about his work for Al Jazeera but they let him into the country after confiscating his passport.
However, he was quickly arrested and was not seen again until he appeared in court 45 days later charged with “membership of a terrorist group” – a charge against which he was never able to defend himself. In October 2021, RSF reported that he was in very poor health because he had not received proper medical care since his arrest.
Ebeid was arrested on 7 July 2022 and was held in an unknown location until he was taken to the office of the Egyptian state prosecutor 11 days later and was told he was charged with “membership of a terrorist group” and “spreading false information. Thereafter, he was held provisionally in Cairo’s El Kanater prison.
The release of these two journalists came two days before the launch of the Egyptian “national dialogue,” a kind of political round-table announced by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2022 that is supposed to examine hundreds of issues with the aim of building a “new republic.” In a Facebook post, Egyptian journalists’ union president Khaled Al-Balshy said he hoped the dialogue would lead to the release of all the other imprisoned journalists.
The persecution of journalists remains entrenched in Egypt’s media landscape, in which independent media have become extremely rare and most journalists work under the threat of imprisonment, prosecution, censorship and surveillance.
Three other Al Jazeera Mubasher journalists have been arrested in Egypt since early 2020 against a backdrop of tension between the Egyptian and Qatari governments. One, Ahmad Al-Nagdy, was arrested on 22 September 2020 and was released two years later, in September 2022, when President Sisi visited Qatar. The other two who are still being held, Ibrahim and Sheikh, were arrested on 22 February 2020 and 1 August 2021, respectively. Their families and Al Jazeera called again for their release on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.
Egypt rose two places in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, and is now ranked 166th out of 180 counties.