New York, January 4, 2021 – Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Aamer Abdelmonem, and ensure that he receives proper medical treatment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On December 19, security officers arrested Abdelmonem, a freelance columnist who contributes to Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, from his home in Cairo, according to Al-Jazeera and news reports.
The following day, state prosecutors charged him with spreading false news and assisting a terrorist organization, and ordered him to be detained for 15 days pending trial, according to those reports and a local journalist who is following the case and spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. That journalist said that Abdelmonem remains in detention as of today.
On December 31, the journalist’s daughter, Mariam Aamer, told local news website Darb that authorities in Cairo’s Tora Prison denied her multiple requests to deliver insulin, eye medication, and prescription glasses to her father, who is a diabetic and has cataracts in both eyes. Prison authorities have barred the journalist’s family from visiting him, according to news reports and the local journalist.
“Egyptian journalist Aamer Abdelmonem is already in failing health, and to detain him during a global pandemic blatantly endangers his life,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “Egyptian authorities must immediately release Abdelmonem, drop all the charges against him, and grant him the medical attention he needs.”
Following his arrest, state security officers interrogated Abdelmonem about his recent articles in Al-Jazeera and his former work as the editorial director of the independent newspaper Al-Shaab, which was banned in 2014, according to those reports and the journalist who spoke to CPJ.
In his recent articles on Al-Jazeera’s website, Abdelmonem criticized the Egyptian government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its crackdown on the Al-Azhar Islamic Institution, a state-affiliated religious institution.
Abdelmonem also posts about politics and human rights on Twitter, where he has about 12,000 followers.
CPJ emailed the Egyptian prosecutor general’s office and the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police and prison system, for comment, but did not receive any responses.
According to CPJ’s 2020 prison census, at least 27 journalists were imprisoned in Egypt in retaliation for their work as of December 1.