Bahaa Eldin Ibrahim Neamatalla, an Egyptian producer at the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera Mubasher, was arrested in February 2020 in Borg al-Arab airport in Alexandria while trying to travel to Qatar. Neamatalla is facing terrorism charges for his work with Al-Jazeera Mubasher, which has been banned in Egypt since 2013.
Neamatalla worked as a producer for Al-Jazeera Mubasher based in Doha covering local and regional political issues, according to a report by his employer, and news reports. Before that, he worked as a producer for state owned news channel Nile TV, in Egypt, where he covered local political and cultural news, according to those reports, and a local journalist and press freedom advocate who spoke with CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
On December 31, 2018, Neamatalla was in Egypt for a short vacation with his family. When he tried to travel back to Doha authorities at Borg al-Arab airport in Alexandria confiscated his passport and told him he was not allowed to leave the country, according to news reports, and a family member who spoke with CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
While Neamatalla’s family returned to Doha, the journalist stayed in Egypt, during which time he did not practice journalism, according to the family member. In 2020, he applied for and received a new passport — but when he tried to fly to Doha on February 22, 2020 he was arrested at the same airport, news reports and the family member said.
Neamatalla’s family and lawyer did not know his whereabouts until May 6, 2020, when he appeared before the state prosecutor in Cairo, who charged him with membership in a terrorist group, according to those reports, and the family member.
During the period that the journalist was out of touch with his family and lawyer, he was detained in a state security detention center in Alexandria, where authorities used electric shocks on him and kept him blindfolded for 75 days, according to the family member and news reports citing Neamatalla’s wife.
The family member told CPJ that authorities questioned Neamatalla about his colleagues and work at Al-Jazeera Mubasher several times.
Since his arrest, prosecutors have renewed Neamatalla’s pretrial detention every 45 days, according to the family member.
Neamatalla is held in Tora prison in Cairo, and he suffers from back problems for sleeping on the floor, according to the family member who said that his family is able to visit him in prison and bring him painkillers.
Neamatalla was not included in CPJ’s 2020 prison census because his family did not publicize his case until March 2021, when his wife spoke to local news website Daarb.
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 Neamatalla’s case in September 2021.