In Egypt, editor accused of publishing false news

Washington, D.C. May 19, 2015–Egyptian authorities today released on bail the editor-in-chief of the privately owned weekly El-Bayan after arresting the journalist on Monday and accusing him of publishing false news, according to news reports.

Police arrested Ibrahim Aref at El-Bayan‘s offices in the Dokki neighborhood of Giza on the orders of the Egyptian prosecutor-general, according to news reports. The editor is accused of “publishing false news which would disturb public security, spread terror among citizens and harm the public interest,” according to news reports.

Authorities said Aref was arrested because El-Bayan posted an article on its website on Friday that alleged six prosecutors had been killed on the Cairo-Suez road that day, according to one news website. Other reports said the article was published on Monday. Several judges and prosecutors have been killed in Egypt in recent days following a series of harsh verdicts against ousted President Mohamed Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood supporters, according to news reports.

Aref denied knowing anything about the article and said he was on vacation when it was published, news reports said. The paper’s editorial board issued a statement today on El-Bayan‘s website, retracting the article and asking the prosecutor-general to show them leniency and release Aref.

El-Bayan has removed the original article from its website, CPJ research shows.

“In the event that journalists or news outlets make a mistake, there should be plenty of means of redress that do not involve throwing someone in prison,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Furthermore, criminal accusations against a journalist are unlikely to solve any genuine security problems facing Egyptian authorities.”

The Egyptian Journalists Syndicate criticized the arrest and said that the press law does not provide for preventive detention in cases related to publishing and that Aref’s arrest was illegal because the syndicate had not been informed beforehand, reports said.

Aref was held today in the Cairo Criminal Court, according to reports.