IFJ Calls for Dismissal of Charges against Foreign Journalist in Egypt

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Media & Entertainment Alliance of Australia in calling for the dropping of criminal charges brought by Egyptian police against Australian journalist Austin Mackell, his local translator, Aliya Alwi and US student Derek Ludovici.

Austin Mackell is a young freelance journalist, who moved to Egypt in February last year. Since that time, he has reported critically on the brutal suppression of protesters by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), currently ruling Egypt.

On 11 February, Mackell, Alwi and Derek Ludovici, drove to the north Egyptian city of Mahalla al- Kubra to interview Kamal el-Fayoumi, a well-known trade unionist and labour activist. Upon arrival, they were attacked and threatened by a small mob. They were instructed by a police officer to come to a police station for their own protection. Over the next 56 hours, they were held in custody. They were all repeatedly interrogated. During this time, they were allowed minimal communication with the outside world.

Mackell, Alwi and Ludovici have been told they have been charged with "inciting people to vandalise public property and governmental buildings". It is alleged that they promised children money if they threw rocks at the Qism El-Tani police station in Mahalla. If convicted, they face imprisonment for 5-7 years. All three deny the charges.

Since their release, they have faced ongoing threats and harassment. The police released their reports to the state media. Consequently, their faces and addresses were featured in the media across Egypt, accusing them of being spies. Mackell's passport, camera, laptop, and external hard drive have been confiscated, along with 800 Egyptian pounds kept at his apartment. His flatmate's camera was also confiscated, along with Alwi's mobile phone, and money from both Alwi and Ludovici. Mackell is also concerned that personal information on his computer will be copied, compromising his work as a journalist and possibly placing his sources at risk.

The IFJ is concerned that the charges against Mackell, Alwi and Ludovici are politically motivated, aimed at intimidating independent journalists who would be interested in reporting on Egypt's labour movement, particularly in Mahalla.

The IFJ calls on the SCAF to ensure the charges against Mackell, Alwi and Ludovici are dropped, and take steps to ensure that the rights to press freedom and organization are upheld within Egypt.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950

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