New York, June 15, 2020 — Egyptian authorities must immediately release journalist Mohamed Monir and drop all charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Earlier today, plainclothes security officers in Giza arrested Monir, a veteran journalist and freelance columnist who had recently written for the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, according to Al-Jazeera and other news reports.
Egypt’s national security prosecutor then charged Monir with joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, and ordered his pretrial detention for 15 days, a period that can be renewed or extended at the prosecutor’s request, according to a Facebook post by Nabeh el-Ganadi, the journalist’s lawyer, which stated that authorities did not link the charges to any specific examples of Monir’s commentary or reporting.
Monir, who is sixty-five years old, suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and severe heart problems, local journalists told CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
“Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Mohamed Monir and drop these baseless charges,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “Monir is already in failing health, and to detain him pending trial during a pandemic is an exceptionally cruel.”
On June 13, plainclothes security officers raided Monir’s apartment in his absence, and searched his house, according to surveillance video that Monir posted the following day on his Facebook page, and news reports. Two hours later, armed security forces went to the apartment and searched it again, according to the video and those reports.
Monir recently criticized the Egyptian government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in a May 26 interview and June 14 column on Al-Jazeera.
In a statement posted today on Monir’s personal Facebook page, the journalist’s family also wrote that he had recently commented for Al-Jazeera on a dispute between the state-owned weekly magazine Rose al-Yusuf and the Coptic Orthodox Church. That dispute was sparked by the magazine’s June 13 cover, which included a photo of Mohamed Badie, the imprisoned supreme guide of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, according to news reports.
In their statement, Monir’s family said he had simply stated his opinion on the issue, and did not insult the state or national unity.
The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the state prosecutor’s office, did not return CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
In May, CPJ documented the arrests of Egyptian journalists Haisam Mahgoub, Lina Attallah, Sameh Haneen, and Shimaa Samy.