Three journalists freed in Egypt, but 18 others still held
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved by the release of three women journalists held without trial in Egypt since 2022 for defending journalists’ rights and calls on the Egyptian government to free the 18 other imprisoned journalists, whose detention continues to sustain an oppressive climate for the media.
The release of Hala Fahmy, Safa al-Korbiji and Manal Agrama, three journalists who defended press freedom, is a rare example of good news for the Egyptian media. They had been detained without trial by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government since 2022 on baseless charges of “spreading false news” and membership of an “illegal” or “terrorist” group.
Their names appeared on a list issued by the prosecutor-general on 7 February of 32 detainees who were being released. All three journalists worked for the government-controlled public broadcaster, the National Media Authority, formerly known as the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU).
The release of the three women journalists is an “undeniable positive indicator,” Khaled al-Balshy, the head of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, said in a statement.
But the good news should not eclipse the fact that 18 other media professionals continue to be detained in Egypt in connection with their work. Only six of them have been tried and convicted. Most are being held without trial and some have been held for more than five years.
“We are relieved that these three women journalists, Hala Fahmy, Safa al-Korbiji and Manal Agrama, are finally free. They defended press freedom and should never have been jailed. We urge President Sisi’s government to put a stop to all persecution of media personnel and to free the 18 other journalists still held.
A journalist with Radio and Television Magazine, a state publication owned by the National Media Authority, for which she still works in another position, Al-Korbiji was the victim of a heavy-handed arrest at her Cairo home on 20 April 2022, a few days after taking part in a protest outside National Media Authority headquarters to demand better working conditions for its journalists.
Fahmy, a well-known National Media Authority TV presenter, was arrested three days later after posting videos denouncing working conditions for journalists and the arbitrary arrests to which many of them have been subjected. RSF sources say she staged several hunger strikes in protest against her detention.
Agrama, a retired journalist who had been a Radio and Television Magazine deputy editor, was arrested on 2 November 2022 in a crackdown that Sisi launched against the media just days ahead of the COP 27 climate summit in Sharm El Sheikh. She had also just criticised government policy in videos on social media.