Egypt jails two journalists, renews detention of another

Saaid Shihata, reporter for Yaqeen, an online news network that is supportive of former President Mohamed Morsi, was arrested on December 30, 2013, while another Yaqeen reporter, Ahmed Gamal, was arrested two days prior, according to Yahya Khalaf, Yaqeen‘s executive director, who spoke to CPJ. Both journalists were held after covering clashes between students and security forces at Al-Azhar University in Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo. 

Shihata was charged with “participating in an illegal demonstration” and “assaulting a police officer,” Khalaf said. He will appear in court on May 11, 2014. Gamal has not yet been charged, but was accused on April 10, 2014, of the same charges that Shihata faces, Khalaf told CPJ.

The journalists announced a hunger strike at Abu Zaabal prison, where they are being held in pre-trial detention, according to their employer and news reports.

On April 19, 2014, the prosecutor general renewed the pre-trial detention of another journalist. Karim Shalaby, a reporter for the news website Al-Masder, who has been in jail since January 25, 2014, was accused of participating in a demonstration, according to his lawyer, Nour Eddin Mohamed. Al-Masder is affiliated with the April 6 Youth Movement, a reform-minded group formed in 2008 that takes its name from the date of a labor strike. On April 28, 2014, the movement was banned by a court order.

Ali Assem, the executive director of Al-Masder, told CPJ that Shalaby was arrested while covering anti-government demonstrations in downtown Cairo. Shalaby is being held at Wadi Natrun prison, Assem said.   

The jail term of another journalist was reduced on appeal. The North Cairo Court of Appeal reduced the prison sentence given to Samah Ibrahim, a reporter with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice newspaper, from one year to six months in prison and a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$7,124), the newspaper reported.

Ibrahim was convicted in April of charges including “disturbing the peace,” according to her employer, her lawyer, and news reports.

At least 14 other journalists are held behind bars in Egypt. Authorities have used legal harassment and arbitrary detention as means to silence critical journalists. More than 65 journalists have been detained since July 2013, according to CPJ research. Most have been freed.

The imprisonment of Shihata, Gamal, and Shalaby brings to at least 17 the number of imprisoned journalists in Egypt in late April 2014, according to CPJ research.