New York, January 24, 2019--Egyptian authorities should drop all charges against TV presenter Mohamed al-Gheiti and stop their relentless campaign against journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Al-Gheiti, host of the show "Sah al-Noum" for the privately owned network LTC TV, was sentenced to a year in prison on January 20 and a fine of 3,000 Egyptian pounds (US$168) on charges of promoting homosexuality and inciting debauchery by a Giza Misdemeanor Court, according to CNN and the state-run Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
The charges stem from an August 2018 episode of al-Gheiti's show in which he interviewed a gay man about his relationships and about his prior activity as a sex worker, according to CNN. Al-Gheiti also interviewed a journalist, Mustafa Mekki, who posed as a gay man on the dating app Grindr in order to learn more about the community, CNN reported.
An article on BBC Arabic quoted al-Gheiti as saying that he had filed an appeal. CPJ could not determine whether or not al-Gheiti has been imprisoned, and LTC TV did not immediately respond when contacted via Facebook regarding al-Gheiti's status. An email to the office of Egypt's prosecutor general seeking comment and clarification on al-Gheiti's status was not returned.
"Mohamed al-Gheiti has every right to report on LGBT issues in Egypt, and if a viewer isn't interested, the normal course of behavior would be to change the channel, not pursue legal charges and a prison sentence for the journalist," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. "Al-Gheiti's conviction should be overturned on appeal, and Egyptian authorities must stop looking for excuses to lock up the press."
According to BBC Arabic, Egypt's Supreme Media Regulatory Council suspended al-Gheiti's show for two weeks for "professional violations" in August 2018, after the interview aired. The Supreme Media Regulatory Council issued a ruling in September 2017 barring LGBT individuals from media appearances and calling homosexuality "a sickness and a disgrace," adding that LGBT individuals were only allowed to make media appearances "when they acknowledge the fact that their conduct is inappropriate and repent for it."
The charges against al-Gheiti stem from a lawsuit filed by private lawyer Samir Sabri for hosting the unidentified man on his show, according to CNN and Al-Ahram. Egypt's justice system allows private citizens to file criminal complaints against others, and the prosecutor general ultimately decides whether or not to take up the complaint and file formal charges.
Egypt does not have formal laws against homosexuality, but authorities routinely target members of the LGBT community with charges such as "inciting debauchery." Al-Gheiti's sentence comes amid a brutal crackdown on press freedom that has landed Egypt among the ranks of the world's worst jailers of journalists, as well as a simultaneous withering crackdown against Egypt's LGBT community, according to Foreign Policy and NPR. Egypt held at least 25 journalists behind bars as of December 1, 2018, according to CPJ research.