CPJ alarmed by investigation of its consultant in Egypt

New York, April 2, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by news reports that its Middle East consultant, Shaimaa Abulkhair, would be investigated by national security prosecutors in Egypt for comments she made about the widely criticized criminal case against satirist Bassem Youssef.

“Abulkhair was doing her job in defending journalists and informing the public about investigation procedures,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “In pursuing this case, the government is escalating its attacks against journalists by targeting those who defend and protect critics.”

Numerous news reports today said that lawyers affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood had filed a complaint accusing the Cairo-based Abulkhair and the prominent TV host Gaber al-Qarmouty of threatening national security and insulting the judiciary because of comments made about the Youssef probe, a case that has drawn international outcry. The prosecutor general’s office referred the complaint to national security prosecutors for investigation, the reports said.

In a phone interview Sunday on al-Qarmouty’s OnTV talk show, Abulkhair said the judge supervising the Youssef case had been fair, but that there shouldn’t be an investigation in the first place. Youssef, known as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, after the American satirist, faces criminal charges of insulting President Mohamed Morsi and Islam through his political commentary.

During the OnTV segment, Abulkhair also presented recent CPJ findings on attacks against journalists. 

Abulkhair has not been officially notified of the investigation against her, a step that is required by law. In a call to the prosecutor general’s office, Abulkhair was told she would not be summoned for questioning until further review of the case was conducted to determine its merits.

“We urge prosecutors to immediately drop the investigation of our consultant, Shaimaa Abulkhair, and our colleague, Gaber al-Qarmouty,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

Many local human right organizations issued statements to support Abulkhair, including the Arab Network for Human Rights and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. The Journalists Syndicate, of which Abulkhair is a member, called her to express support and to reaffirm its earlier position that the prosecutor general’s office has operated with bias and outside the law.