Al-Jazeera producer Rabie al-Sheikh was arrested in August 2021 in Cairo International Airport upon his return to Egypt from Qatar. He is being held in pretrial detention on false news charges for allegedly inviting local journalist Abdel Naser Salama for an interview. Salama was detained in 2021 over a post he published on Facebook calling for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to resign; Salama was released in July 2022.
Al-Sheikh is a producer for the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera Mubasher. He previously covered politics for the local Egyptian privately owned newspaper Al-Youm al-Sabe, according to a local journalist who knows al-Sheikh and spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. The journalist told CPJ that he believes al-Sheikh’s arrest was connected to his work for Al-Jazeera Mubasher, which is owned by Al-Jazeera, the Qatari network banned from operating in Egypt since 2013.
On August 1, 2021, Egyptian security forces arrested al-Sheikh in Cairo International Airport upon his return from Doha, Qatar, where he lives, according to news reports. The next day the state prosecutor’s office charged al-Sheikh with spreading false news and ordered his detention pending an investigation into these charges, according to those reports.
Al-Sheikh’s arrest came after the YouTube channel “Akhbarna lak” (“Our news to you”) published audio of what it described as a leaked a phone call between al-Sheikh and Salama on July 17, 2021. In the audio, which is the only publication on the YouTube channel, a person identified as al-Sheikh can be heard inviting Salama to appear on Al-Jazeera Mubasher to discuss his Facebook post calling for al-Sisi’s resignation over his handling of the management of Nile River water.
As of late September 2022, al-Sheikh was being held in the Tora Prison Complex in Cairo and prison authorities have not allowed his family to visit him, according to the local journalist. CPJ was unable to determine the status of al-Sheikh’s health 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 al-Sheikh’s case in September 2022.