Wave of arrests of journalists, website blocking in Egypt
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the latest attempts by the Egyptian authorities to gag the media, in which at least six journalists have been detained in a week-old wave of anti-government protests.
The reporters detained since the protests began on 20 September, in response to the actor Mohamed Ali’s accusations of governmental corruption, have brought the total number journalists imprisoned in Egypt to 31.
One of the first reporters to be arrested was Engy Abdel Wahab, who began working as a trainee with the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm just weeks ago. She was arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 20 September.
Omar Hisham, a photographer for the news website Masrawy, was also arrested in Tahrir Square on 20 September. His editors sent a letter, which RSF has seen, to his lawyer, certifying that he was sent there to cover that evening’s Egyptian Super Cup celebrations by Al-Ahly football club supporters.
The blogger known as “Mohamed Oxygen” was also detained the same day, less than two months after being given a conditional release that ended more than 15 months in detention.
The organization NetBlocks meanwhile reported that the Facebook Messenger app and the websites of the BBC and the US government-funded TV channel Al-Hurra were being blocked in Egypt. Makram Mohamed Ahmed, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation, confirmed the blocking to the BBC, blaming it on the “publication of false information.”
“The Egyptian government must stop gagging the media at times of unrest by preventing journalists from doing their work,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This new wave of arrests draws fresh attention to the opaqueness of a regime that endlessly violates the public’s right to information.”
Three of the journalists arrested in the past week have already been brought before judges and placed in provisional detention. They are Nasser Abdel Hafiz, a reporter for the newspaper Akhbar El-Yom, Sayed Abdellah, who was covering the protests in Suez for Al Jazeera and was posting information live on his (now-disconnected) Facebook account, and Al-Ahram’s Khaled Dawoud.
Hafiz was arrested in Tahrir Square on 20 September. After Abdellah was arrested at home and taken to a police station on 21 September, his wife posted a video of their searched home. Dawoud was arrested at home on 25 September.
A number of other journalists were arrested and then released. They include Sayed Sobhy, a journalist with the newspaper Al-Akhbar, who was arrested in Cairo on 22 September after returning home from work, and was released the same day.
Egypt is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.