Egypt: Detained journalists receive additional charges

Egyptian prosecutors have brought additional charges against two journalists who have been in pretrial detention since autumn 2019. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the decision as "a disturbing attempt to prolong their detention". Several journalists have been held in detention in Egypt for years without being convicted of any crime.

Esraa Abdel-Fattah Credits: KHALED DESOUKI / AFP

On 31 August, the State Security Prosecution added journalist Esraa Abdel-Fattah to an existing case for allegedly being part of a group accused of spreading misinformation. She was arrested on 12 October 2019 by plain clothes police officers and has been held ever since. At the time of her arrest, she was with a friend who said that both of them were beaten by the police, according to an IFJ report.

Abdel Fattah works for al-Tahrir newspaper and is a renowned human rights defender. She co-founded the April 6 Movement in 2008, which was a leading force in mobilising millions of Egyptians to protest against former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 which led to his resignation.

On 30 August, journalist Solafa Magdy, who was arrested on 27 November 2019, was interrogated and charged in the same case, according to Egyptian news site Mada Masr. As a multimedia reporter, she covered political and social changes in Egypt. Her work appeared in Arabic newspaper Alroeya, Turkish news channel TRT World, Mada Masr and BBC Egypt.

Magdy's lawyer Khaled Ali wrote in a statement on Facebook that the new case rests on charges of "belonging to a terrorist group, publishing false news and misusing social media." The prosecution accuses the journalists of being part of a network that operates inside and outside the prison spreading false rumours.

According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Informations (ANHRI), the Supreme State Security Prosecution ruled that the 2 journalists will remain in pretrial detention for another 15 additional days. This period will begin after the pretrial detention of previous charges has ended.

Both Abdel-Fattah's and Magdy's arrests in autumn 2019 happened at a time of a massive crackdown on press freedom in Egypt. After protests against President el-Sisi had started on 20 September, several journalists were arrested and media sites were blocked.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "Adding additional charges is a way to prolong a journalist's detention. The Egyptian authorities increasingly target detained journalists with additional charges to intimidate them. This shameful practice is a blatant violation of Egypt's own constitution and international conventions on the right to freedom of expression and due legal process. Egyptian authorities must free all our colleagues immediately and unconditionally."

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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