New York, October 13, 2020 – Egyptian authorities must immediately release Kamal el-Balshy and stop harassing the families of journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On September 20, state security forces arrested Kamal el-Balshy, who works at an international travel agency, while he was returning home from the gym in downtown Cairo, according to a statement by local news website Darb. On October 1, the state prosecutor’s office charged el-Balshy with illegal assembly, membership of a banned group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, and ordered him detained for 15 days pending trial, according to Darb and news reports.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information, a regional rights group, characterized the arrest as retaliation for the work of his brother Khaled el-Balshy, editor-in-chief of Darb. Mahmoud Kamal, a local journalist and member of the board of directors of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, also believes the arrest is retaliatory for his brother’s journalist work, according to Darb.
“Egyptian authorities must release Kamal el-Balshy immediately and stop their harassment of Darb and its editor, Khaled el-Balshy,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Journalists should be allowed to work freely, without fear that they or their relatives will be jailed. Targeting a journalist’s family is completely unacceptable.”
El-Balshy’s family visited him at Kasr el-Nil police station, where he was detained in Cairo, on the day following his arrest, according to Darb’s statement. When the family returned to the station on September 22, they learned that el-Balshy has been moved to a Central Security Forces’ training camp in Cairo; they lost communication with him until October 1, according to the statement.
Authorities blocked Darb’s website on April 9, just one month after the outlet launched, without giving any reason, as CPJ documented at the time. As of today, Darb is still inaccessible in Egypt without using a virtual private network (VPN), according to a local journalist who spoke with CPJ from Cairo on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
On September 9, state security forces arrested Islam al-Kalhy, a reporter at Darb, while he was covering protests in the al-Monib neighborhood in Giza, as CPJ documented at the time. As of today, al-Kalhy is still in custody, according to a colleague of his who is following the case and spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
This is not the first time that Egyptian authorities have arrested a journalist’s relative in retaliation for their work. On September 10, 2019, state security forces arrested Omar Shandi, a college student and the son of the editor-in-chief of local news website al-Mashhad, per CPJ’s research. Shandi was released on September 22, 2019, according to a statement his father posted on Facebook.