Egypt hands jail term to journalist, holds others in custody

New York, March 17, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the one-year prison sentence given today to Samah Ibrahim, a reporter for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice newspaper. Ibrahim is one of at least 10 journalists imprisoned in the country, according to news reports and CPJ research.

“The Egyptian government apparently feels it has broad license to expand its crackdown on the press–it’s getting more and more difficult to keep track of the number of journalists in prison,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on authorities to signal that they can accept open debate and criticism by releasing all journalists in Egyptian jails.”

Ibrahim was convicted on charges including “disturbing the peace,” according to her employer, her lawyer, and news reports. She was arrested in Cairo in mid-January while photographing a protest organized by members of the Muslim Brotherhood against the new constitution, Khalid Eid, her lawyer, told CPJ. Ibrahim has been in custody since her arrest, Eid said.

Also, in recent weeks, a Giza prosecutor renewed the pre-trial detention of Hussein Hassan Sobhy, a reporter for the online Radio Horytna, for 15 days, according to news reports. Sobhy was arrested on February 21 while covering a protest by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Al-Haram district of Giza, and accused of joining the demonstration, the reports said. Samar al-Hussany, the deputy director of Radio Horytna, told CPJ that the prosecutor renewed the journalist’s detention on March 5 despite evidence submitted by the station to police that showed Sobhy was on professional assignment at the time.

A prosecutor in Alexandria extended the pre-trial detention of Ahmed Fouad, a reporter for Karmos news website, for another 15 days, according to a local press freedom group, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE). Fouad was arrested on January 25 while covering a demonstration in Sidi Beshr by Muslim Brotherhood members. He has been charged with “joining a group that aims to disrupt the law,” “demonstrating without permission,” “blocking a road,” and “possessing a weapon,” according to AFTE and Karmos.

At least seven other journalists are being held behind bars in Egypt in retaliation for their work. Egyptian authorities have used legal harassment and arbitrary detention as means to silence critical journalists. More than 60 journalists have been detained since July, according to CPJ research. Most have been freed.

On Sunday, The Associated Press published a report citing four senior officials that said the government has jailed about 16,000 individuals in the last eight months.