New York, April 5, 2016 - Egyptian prosecutors should immediately drop criminal charges against editor and press freedom advocate Khaled El-Balshy, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
El-Balshy, the editor of the news website Al-Bedaiah and the head of the Freedoms Committee at Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate, faces arrest on charges including insulting the Ministry of Interior, Al-Bedaiah reported on Monday. Prosecutors issued a warrant for El-Balshy's arrest in response to a criminal complaint filed by the assistant interior minister for legal affairs, alleging that the editor had insulted the Interior Ministry and the police on social media websites, and that he had organized illegal protests, the editor told reporters Monday.
"By pursuing not only journalists, but those who seek to defend them, Egypt is clearly showing its intent to stifle press freedom," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, "We call on Egyptian authorities to drop charges against Khaled El-Balshy immediately and to let journalists do their jobs without being harassed or jailed."
El-Balshy is a board member of the Journalists' Syndicate and the head of its Freedoms Committee, which manages complaints of press-freedom violations and advocates for the release of imprisoned journalists. He is also the editor-in-chief of Al-Bedaiah, an independent news website which is frequently critical of the authorities and provides regular coverage of attacks on the press and non-governmental organizations.
In late February, El-Balshy and another member of the Journalists' Syndicate staged a sit-in to demand proper medical treatment and humane conditions for imprisoned journalists and protested at the syndicate demanding the release of imprisoned journalists.
In posts to his personal Facebook account Monday, El-Balshy said he would submit to any interrogations by the authorities and that his lawyers would inquire about the case against him at the general prosecutor's office today. El-Balshy also said he believed the warrant was really about his advocacy on behalf of Egyptian journalists.
"The real case is that of all the imprisoned journalists in Egypt," he wrote on Tuesday.
The Interior Ministry was not immediately available for comment.
CPJ's annual census of journalists in prison around the world on December 1, 2015, found that only China jailed more journalists than Egypt.