Online journalist reported missing in Egypt

New York, February 25, 2013–Egyptian authorities must do their utmost to determine the whereabouts and ensure the safety of Mohamed el-Sawi, an online journalist who was reported missing on February 21, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ also calls on Egypt to stop using the law to intimidate journalists and prevent them from reporting critically.

“We are alarmed by the disappearance of Mohamed el-Sawi and fear for his safety. Egyptian authorities must work swiftly to determine his whereabouts and ensure his safe return,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator. “This disappearance comes against the backdrop of a serious deterioration in Egypt’s press freedom environment after eight months of Mohamed Morsi’s presidency.”

El-Sawi reports political news for Masrawy, an online news website in Egypt. His colleagues at the website said they received a brief call from him on Thursday in which he said he had been kidnapped on his way to work and that he had been taken to the Tenth of October neighborhood in Cairo. They reported him missing that day and said he had not been heard from for two days. News accounts did not immediately report if el-Sawi’s family or colleagues had received any ransom demands.

El-Sawi’s most recent report included a headline that described Morsi as being a part of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The journalist was known for his coverage of the Mohamed Mahmoud demonstrations in November 2011 in Cairo and frequently covered legal prosecutions against members of the former regime.

Masrawy Editor-in-Chief Emad Sayed suggested on the website that el-Sawi’s disappearance could be connected to the ongoing crackdown on the press under Morsi, in which several journalists have been harassed and intimidated in connection with their reporting.

Family members and colleagues of el-Sawi protested in front of the Egyptian Prosecutor General’s office on Saturday and called for an immediate investigation, news reports said.

Egyptian authorities have engaged in a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate journalists. The Ismailiya Military Court delayed the trial of freelance photographer Muhamed Sabry on Sunday, according to news reports. Sabry was charged with being in a military zone illegally and photographing a military facility without permission, the reports said. He has been freed on bail.

In February, Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of Tahrir newspaper, was summoned for questioning and accused of defaming religion and ridiculing the Quran and Sharia law, according to news reports. Another journalist, Dina Abdel Fattah, TV host of talk show Al Shaab Yoreed (People Want) and editor-in-chief of economic magazine Amwal Al-Ghad, and Kahiry Hassan, an editor of the talk show, were accused of “supporting terrorism,” news reports said. The accusation stemmed from a TV program on which Fattah had interviewed members of Black Bloc, an Egyptian youth organization formed to protest against Morsi’s administration.

A journalist has also accused the Muslim Brotherhood government of forcing him out of his position, news reports said. Hani Shukrallah, editor-in-chief of the English-language website Al-Ahram, said in a note published on his Facebook page: “The deed is done: the MB has now fulfilled its resolve to drive me out of Ahram.” Other editors of government media institutions were forced to leave their posts last year when the Shura council, controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, began to appoint political allies as the heads of the outlets.