Security forces are seen in Cairo, Egypt, on March 29, 2020. Authorities recently detained journalists Hany Greisha and El-Sayed Shehta; Shehta is ill with the coronavirus. (AP/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

Egypt detains 2 journalists, including 1 with COVID-19 who was quarantined, now hospitalized

New York, September 4, 2020 – Egyptian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalists Hany Greisha and El-Sayed Shehta and stop arresting journalists during a global pandemic, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On August 26, security forces arrested Greisha, an editor at the privately owned news website Youm7, at his home in Giza, according to news reports published this week. The state prosecutor’s office charged him with spreading false news, misusing social media, and joining a terrorist organization–the Muslim Brotherhood–and ordered his pretrial detention for 15 days, according to those reports.

On August 30, security forces arrested Shehta, the website’s deputy managing editor, at his home in the town of Minya al-Qamh in the al-Sharkeya governorate in northern Egypt, after raiding it and confiscating his cell phones, laptop, credit cards, identification card, and his printer, according those reports. CPJ could not determine whether he has been charged.

During his arrest, security forces brought Shehta to a police station in the nearby city of al-Zagazig, where he lost consciousness, according to news reports. Days earlier, Shehta tested positive for COVID-19 and was self-isolating in his home at the time of his arrest, according to a press freedom advocate who is following the case and spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation.

Shehta is currently handcuffed to a hospital bed in the intensive care unit of the Belbeis Public Hospital, according to those news reports.

“Egyptian authorities should be urgently releasing journalists from its prisons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, it is diligently rounding up more to throw in jail – including now one who was sick and in quarantine,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi should be ashamed. We call on authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Hany Greisha and El-Sayed Shehta and drop all charges against them.”

Authorities did not disclose the reasons for either journalists’ arrest, according to those news reports. Youm7 covers local and regional news, politics, sports, and other topics.

The Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office did not reply to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment.

Journalist Mohamed Monir contracted COVID-19 while in police custody and passed away on July 13 due to complications of the virus, as CPJ documented.