Khallaf is the founder and head of the Electronic Media Syndicate, which trains and supports journalists who work online in Egypt. It is independent from the state-recognized Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, which admits only print journalists and not those working online, or in radio or television.
Khallaf was arrested after a news article was published by the government-owned daily Akhbar Elyoum that accused Khallaf and his syndicate, along with other media outlets including the news website Masr Al-Arabiya, of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and receiving money from the group.
Khallaf denied the accusations on his personal Facebook page. The day he was arrested, Masr Al-Arabiya wrote an open letter to the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, saying the outlet was a victim of a smear campaign and that the staff demanded a right of reply.
Khallaf was arrested at the Federation of Egyptian Syndicates in Cairo, to which the Electronic Media Syndicate belongs. He had been summoned for questioning by the federation about the accusations published in Akhbar Elyoum, his lawyer told reporters. When he arrived at the federation’s headquarters, police officers arrested him.
After his arrest, prosecutors charged Khallaf with belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, according to the news website Dot Msr. The local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture and the local Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said Khallaf was charged with “taking pictures and displaying artistic works without a license,” among other allegations. A 1998 executive order states that individuals conducting audio and audiovisual work must have a license from the Ministry of Culture. According to AFTE, the accusation is in connection with Khallaf’s photographing the funeral of Hisham Barakat, Egypt’s prosecutor general, who was assassinated in late June 2015.
The Electronic Media Syndicate issued a statement in September denying the accusations made against it by the prosecution and government-aligned media.
Khallaf is being held in pre-trial detention in Cairo’s Tora prison. No trial date had been set as of late in 2015.