Egyptian women, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, queue up outside a polling station on August 11, 2020 for a new senate in an upper house election. A journalist was detained while covering the election. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Two Egyptian journalists detained and released

On August 11, 2020, Egyptian authorities arrested freelance journalist Rasha Mounir in Cairo while she was covering the Egyptian senate elections, according to news reports. The reports did not specify which outlet Mounir was working for at the time. She was unconditionally released without charges the same day, according to a Facebook post by Amr Badr, a journalist and a member of the board of directors of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate as well as the reports. Badr contacted the ministry of interior demanding clarification for the reason of Mounir’s arrest but received no response, according to his Facebook post. 

In a separate incident on August 15, Egyptian authorities arrested Mohamed Essawi, a correspondent for independent news website Cairo 24, in the village of Dimeshli in the Al-Beheira governorate of the Nile Delta region of northern Egypt, according to news reports. Essawi was in Dimeshli covering a ferry accident resulting in the deaths of four citizens live on Cairo 24’s Facebook page, according to a statement from Cairo 24 and news reports

The state prosecutor’s office of Kum Hamada, a rural area in the governorate, accused Essawi of working for the banned Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, spreading false news, and belonging to a banned group, according to news reports. The prosecutor’s office ordered Essawi to be kept for 15 days in pretrial detention, according to the reports. 

In its statement, published on the day of the arrest, Cairo 24 called on the Egyptian authorities to release Essawi and confirmed that Cairo 24 is the journalist’s only employer, which Badr also stated in another Facebook post. Essawi was released unconditionally the following day without charges, according to the reports. 

The ministry of interior did not respond to CPJ’s email request for comment on Essawi and Mounir’s cases. CPJ contacted both journalists via Facebook messenger but did not receive a response. 

CPJ documented the June 15 arrest of the late journalist Mohamed Monir, which a source close to the journalist told CPJ was related to his appearance in an Al-Jazeera program. He later died of COVID-19. CPJ also documented the arrest of freelance journalist and documentary producer Sameh Haneen for allegedly producing a video for Al-Jazeera.