Photojournalist Osama al-Bishbishi was arrested on September 26 along with photojournalists Hamdy Mokhtar and Mohamed Hassan, while filming near the Journalists’ Syndicate in downtown Cairo, according to news reports and local press freedom organizations.
Each of the three journalists arrested works with a different privately owned outlet, but the trio was arrested together while interviewing passersby for their opinions on a recent initiative by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi encouraging Egyptians to donate their spare change to fund national projects, an initiative that sparked ridicule on social media.
Security forces arrested them on the spot, without stating any clear reason, according to a statement published by news website al-Naba’a, Hassan’s employer. Al-Bishbishi is a photographer and cameraman with the news website Baladi. Mokhtar is a freelance photographer who works with the newspaper el-Shaab el-Jadeed, which is generally supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership ousted in 2013.
The three journalists were questioned by prosecutors and officers from Egypt’s domestic intelligence agency throughout the night of September 27, lawyers Fatema Serag and Nourhan Hassan, who is the photojournalist Hassan’s sister, told the Egyptian press freedom group Journalists Against Torture Observatory. The next morning, prosecutors charged all three with belonging to a banned organization, inciting violence and terrorism online, and publishing false news. Prosecutors ordered them held in pretrial detention for a renewable period.
After being held in Kasr el Nil police station near downtown Cairo for nearly a month, the three journalists were transferred to Tora Istiqbal prison on October 29, 2016, according to their lawyers.
On February 20, 2017 the journalists appeared in front of a judge for the first time since their arrest, according to the Journalists Against Torture Observatory.
On March 19, a Giza court ordered that the journalists be released without trial on condition they check in weekly with police, according to the same press freedom group, which cited their lawyer. Prosecutors appealed the ruling and the journalists remained in custody.
Hassan’s lawyer appealed the prosecution’s decision, but the appeal was rejected, according to Journalists Against Torture Observatory.
Their detention is renewed every 45 days and no trial date was set by late 2017, according to Journalists Against Torture Observatory.
The lawyer, Hassan, said in her statement to the press that all three journalists said they had been beaten, kicked, and given electric shocks in custody.
As of December 1, 2017, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment about claims of jailed journalists being mistreated.
After being held in Kasr el Nil police station near downtown Cairo for nearly a month, the journalists were transferred to Tora Istiqbal prison on October 29, 2016 according to their lawyers.