Egyptian journalist Ahmed al-Najdi was arrested in Cairo in September 2020 on multiple anti-state and false news charges. In custody, authorities have questioned him about his work for Al-Jazeera.
Al-Najdi has worked as a producer for the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera for almost 20 years, according to his family, who provided a written account of his imprisonment to CPJ but asked not to be identified by name for fear of reprisal. A local journalist and press freedom advocate also confirmed the details via messaging app on the same condition of anonymity.
On September 22, 2020, plainclothes state security forces arrested al-Najdi, who lives in Qatar and was in Egypt on vacation, from his Cairo residence, according to al-Najdi’s family and the local journalist. They blindfolded him and brought him to the 6th of October national security headquarters for questioning, according to those sources.
In custody, national security officers asked al-Najdi about the nature of his work for Al-Jazeera, according to those sources, and accused him of illegally filming and producing a documentary on Egypt to be broadcast on Al-Jazeera, which has been outlawed in Egypt since 2013. CPJ’s sources said that al-Najdi denied these accusations, stressing that he was in the country on his annual leave.
On September 24, 2020, the state prosecutor’s office charged al-Nadji with membership in a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media to spread nationwide panic, according to the family and the local journalist.
As of late November 2021, al-Nadji is held in pretrial detention, and prosecutors have repeatedly extended his detention every 45 days, according to those sources.
Al-Najdi is held in a small cell in the Giza Central Prison in Cairo that he shares with at least 20 other people, with no access to fresh air or a mattress, according to the family and the local journalist.
Family members said Al-Najdi is also denied access to medical care for several conditions, including chest pain, hypertension, osteoarthritis of the knee, and diabetes that has affected his feet; they also said he has degeneration in four disc spaces in his neck, a condition that requires anti-inflammatory injections that he has not received in prison.
Al-Najdi was not included in CPJ’s 2020 prison census because his family did not make his detention public prior to speaking with CPJ this year.
On November 1, 2021, during Al-Jazeera’s 25th anniversary ceremony, Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, the chairman of the board of directors of the Qatari network, demanded in a speech broadcast on Al-Jazeera the release of Al-Jazeera journalists in Egyptian custody, including al-Najdi, according to a report on Al-Jazeera affiliate Al-Jazeera Mubashir.
The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, the prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office, did not answer CPJ’s emails requesting comment on al-Najdi’s case in November 2021.