Tora Prison is seen on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, on February 11, 2020. Blogger Shadi Abu Zeid recently began a six-month sentence at the prison. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Egyptian blogger Shadi Abu Zeid jailed for 6 months over 2016 Facebook video

New York, December 21, 2020 – Egyptian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release blogger Shadi Abu Zeid, and cease jailing members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On November 21, a Cairo appeals court sentenced video blogger Abu Zeid to six months in prison after convicting him of insulting a government official in a Facebook post, according to news reports and his lawyer Nasser Amin, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

Later that day, Abu Zeid was transferred to Cairo’s Tora Prison to begin his jail term, Amin said.

Abu Zeid was previously arrested on May 6, 2018, on charges of publishing false news and joining a banned group, according to CPJ research. He was held in pretrial detention until November 2, 2020, when he was released on the condition that he spend two nights per week in police custody, according to news reports, Amin, and a local journalist who is following the case and spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

“It is shocking that Egyptian authorities would re-imprison blogger Shadi Abu Zeid, who was finally released last month after spending more than two years in pretrial detention,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Abu Zeid and make sure that journalists can work freely.”

The charges sparking Abu Zeid’s November 21 conviction stem from a January 2016 video mocking police officers that he published on “The Rich Content,” a satirical news and interview program he ran on YouTube and his now-shuttered personal Facebook page, according to Amin, those news reports, and CPJ’s review of the video, which has since been taken offline.

Amin told CPJ that Abu Zeid’s trial concerning the 2016 video started in 2018, when he was still in pretrial custody on the false news and banned group charges, which led him to miss most of his hearings and thereby lose his right to appeal.

Until 2016, Abu Zeid also worked as a correspondent for the satirical news program “Abla Fahita,” which aired on the privately owned Capital Broadcasting Channel, according to CPJ research.

Abu Zeid was not included in CPJ’s recent census of journalists imprisoned as of December 1, 2020, because CPJ was not aware of the new case against him at the time. On December 19, Rola Abu Zeid, the journalist’s sister, disclosed his imprisonment in a Facebook post.

CPJ emailed the Egyptian Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.