Police officers are seen near men in Cairo, Egypt, on December 17, 2020. Police recently detained cartoonist Ashraf Hamdi. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Egyptian cartoonist Ashraf Hamdi detained after publishing video on Arab Spring anniversary

New York, January 26, 2021 — Egyptian authorities must immediately release cartoonist Ashraf Hamdi and drop any charges filed against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

In the early hours yesterday, state security forces arrested Hamdi, owner and founder of cartoon blog Egyptoon, at his home in Giza, according to news reports and a Facebook post by the cartoonist at the time of his arrest.

He is alleged to have spread false news and misused social media platforms, both criminal offenses, according to those reports, which note that authorities have not disclosed a specific reason for his arrest.

On January 24, Hamdi published a video on Egyptoon’s Facebook page marking the 10-year anniversary of the protests that toppled the country’s government in 2011, according to those reports. The video has since been taken offline.

“Ten years ago, the Egyptian people toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime during the Arab Spring uprising that called for greater freedom. Today, President Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s government is arresting journalists who dare to recall that historic event,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities must immediately release Ashraf Hamdi and drop any charges against him.”

Since 2013, Hamdi has managed the political and social commentary cartoon outlet Egyptoon, which has more than 3 million followers on its YouTube channel, and 1.2 million on its Facebook page.

Hamdi previously worked as an editorial cartoonist at the Masrawy news website, and contributed to state-owned print magazine Sabah al-Khair and the regional satirical website Kharabiish, according to his personal Facebook page.

CPJ emailed the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice for comment on Hamdi’s arrest, but did not receive any responses.

Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities arrested journalists Hamdi al-Zaeem and Ahmed Khalifa on false news and terrorism charges, as CPJ documented at the time.