Ahmed Farouk was arrested at Cairo International Airport on October 31, 2016, when he tried to board a flight to Guangzhou, China, according to his sister, Sara Sawan, and the non-governmental organization Swiss Organization for the Protection of Human Rights.
Farouk was traveling to the Canton Fair, a trade event that he was invited to cover, his brother told Al-Sharq TV on March 28, 2017. Farouk’s sister said that although police initially questioned the journalist about his work on unrelated topics and payments he received from foreign news outlets, the journalist was eventually jailed pending trial on suspicion that he played a role in the broadcast of tapes purportedly featuring Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in conversation with military leaders when he was minister of defense under former President Mohamed Morsi, whom he wrested from power in 2013.
Farouk has not been charged in the case, known publicly as the “Mekameleen Leaks,” in reference to the Arabic-language, Turkey-based pro-Muslim Brotherhood satellite television station that broadcast the tapes, his sister told CPJ. Farouk denies any connection to the leaks, according to the journalist’s family and the Swiss Organization for the Protection of Human Rights.
All other suspects in the Mekameleen Leaks case were released in July 2015, more than a year before Farouk’s arrest, according to his sister and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an Egyptian human rights group. Farouk was not named in the case prior to his 2016 arrest.
Over the first half of 2015, Mekameleen aired a series of audio recordings that the channel claims to have obtained from sources in el-Sisi’s office. The leaks, which were purportedly recorded in 2013, allegedly feature el-Sisi and military leaders discussing monetary aid from Gulf countries, Egyptian cooperation with the United Arab Emirates in sending arms to eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, and journalists who worked closely with el-Sisi. The government dismissed the leaks as fake, according to news reports, but forensic analysis published by international news outlets suggested they were authentic.
In February 2015, a few months before his arrest, Farouk produced a video report for the London-based channel Al-Araby TV alleging that an Egyptian food company violated hygiene standards. In December 2015, he also produced a 30-minute documentary featuring interviews with female activists sent to trial in a case publicly known as the “7 a.m. movement.” The activists, whose ages were between 15 and 22 at the time, were arrested for protesting the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, according to a statement by Amnesty international and news reports.
In a blog post published by Al-Jazeera in September 2016, Farouk wrote about his experience of becoming a journalist in Egypt. After Morsi’s 2013 ouster, his belief in the importance of journalism made him shut down his biomedical business to become a video journalist, at a time when “only God knows” how difficult it is to be one, he wrote.
The journalist is being held in Cairo’s Tora prison. No trial date was set by late 2017, according to his family.
Farouk was not included in CPJ’s 2016 census because CPJ was not aware of his case at the time.