Atef Hassaballah el-Sayed

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Egyptian journalist Atef Hassaballah el-Sayed is among several journalists who were arrested this year after reporting on the impact of the COVID-19 virus on Egypt.

El-Sayed edits Al-Qarar Al-Dawly, a weekly print newspaper covering politics, sports, and social issues, according to el-Sayed’s lawyer Nabih el-Ganadi, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app and CPJ’s review of the newspaper’s official Facebook page

On March 15, officers arrested el-Sayed at his home in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, according to el-Ganadi, and a report by the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, a Czech Republic-based group focused on Egypt. For roughly the next month, el-Sayad’s whereabouts were unknown, el-Ganadi said. 

On April 14, prosecutors charged el-Sayed with joining a terrorist organization, spreading false news, and misusing social media, and ordered him to be detained 15 days pending an investigation, according to el-Ganadi and the Egyptian Front for Human Rights report. According to el-Ganadi, el-Sayed’s detention has been repeatedly renewed, but as of late 2020 CPJ was unable to determine the dates of the renewals or whether el-Sayed had appeared before a court.  

El-Ganadi told CPJ that he believes that el-Sayed’s arrest was sparked by a post he wrote on his personal Facebook account questioning the official number of COVID-19 infections in the country. El-Sayed’s Facebook account has now been closed, according to CPJ’s review. 

El-Sayed is held in the Tora Prison Complex in Cairo, according to regional rights group the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and an Egyptian press freedom advocate familiar with the case who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. 

As of late 2020, CPJ was unable to determine whether el-Sayed had any health problems in prison. 

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 el-Sayed in September 2020.