New York, May 8, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed concern over the detention of Shadi Abu Zaid, a video blogger who produces and anchors his own satirical news show.
Plainclothes state security officers around dawn on May 6 raided Abu Zaid’s family home and arrested him, according to the independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr and BBC Arabic.
Abu Zaid’s sister Roula Abu Zaid on May 6 wrote in a Facebook post that during the raid security forces also seized all of the computers and phones in the house. She said that the security forces prevented her from following them after they left the house. In a Facebook post yesterday, Roula Abu Zaid wrote that her brother is being held at the State Security Prosecutor’s office in the Tagamou’ al-Khamis neighborhood.
The journalist’s lawyer, Azza Soliman, yesterday wrote in a post on Facebook that she and Shadi Abu Zaid’s family are aware that he is at the prosecutor’s office “by accident because a lawyer saw him there” and passed on the information. She said that prosecutors for Egyptian State Security deny having Abu Zaid in custody.
According to BBC Arabic and the privately-owned Egyptian news website Masrawy, Egyptian authorities have charged Abu Zaid with “spreading false news” and “joining a banned group.”
CPJ was unable to reach the Interior Ministry, which has jurisdiction over the state prosecutor, to verify Abu Zaid’s whereabouts.
“Shadi Abu Zaid’s detention shows how sensitive the Egyptian government has become to criticism of any shape or size,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington D.C. “Satirical commentary on current affairs has become increasingly important in Egypt as traditional forms of news are censored.”
Abu Zaid produces a satirical news program, “The Rich Content,” which he has published on YouTube and Facebook since June 2015. He covers general news topics and features street interviews on politics and social issues. Recent episodes posted online included him interviewing Egyptians about the robot “Sophia” and Saudi Arabia’s decision to grant it citizenship, as well as a hypothetical scenario where Egypt hosted the World Cup.
Since Egypt’s presidential elections in March, authorities have stepped up their campaign against critical and independent journalists and have cracked down on those conducting man-on-the-street interviews, according to CPJ research.
Until January 2016, Abu Zaid also worked as a correspondent for the satirical news program “Abla Fahita,” which airs on the privately owned Capital Broadcasting Channel, according to Mada Masr.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been updated with charges against the blogger in the fourth and fifth paragraphs.