Shadi Abu Zeid, who produces a satirical news program called "The Rich Content," has been detained since May 2018 on charges of joining a banned group and spreading false news. A court ordered his release in April 2019, but the journalist remains in custody and authorities have repeatedly renewed his pretrial detention.
Plainclothes state security officers arrested Abu Zeid in a dawn raid on his family home on May 6, 2018, according to the independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr and BBC Arabic. Abu Zeid’s sister Roula wrote in a Facebook post that day that security forces seized all of the computers and phones in the house. She said that the security forces prevented her from following them when they left the house.
On May 8, a state security prosecutor ordered Abu Zeid to be detained for 15 days on charges of publishing false news and joining a banned group, BBC Arabic and the privately-owned Egyptian news website Masrawy reported. The prosecutor did not disclose the reason for the charges, according to reports.
Abu Zeid is being held in Tora prison and prosecutors repeatedly renewed his pretrial detention period, his sister wrote in a 2018 Facebook post.
Abu Zeid produced "The Rich Content," which was published on YouTube and Facebook since June 2015. In 2018, it had about 16,400 subscribers. He covers general news topics and features interviews with people on the street on politics and social issues. In a profile about him published by Mada Masa in November 2018, the journalist is described as doing "social comedy" to confront issues such as religious prejudice and sexual harassment.
Until January 2016, Abu Zeid worked as a correspondent for the satirical news program "Abla Fahita," which aired on the privately owned Capital Broadcasting Channel, according to Mada Masr. Egypt’s media regular ordered the show off air for allegedly promoting terrorism, according to news reports.
Abu Zeid was one of at least two journalists arrested as part of a larger crackdown and mass trial known as case 621 in which over 40 defendants are accused of false news and being members of a banned group.
The arrest came as Egypt’s crackdown on the press deepened in 2018; authorities ratcheted up their rhetoric against media outlets as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ran for and won re-election.
On April 6, 2019, a Cairo criminal court ordered Abu Zeid to be released on probation but on April 8, before he was released, the court accepted a prosecutor’s appeal to keep the journalist detained for a further 45 days, according to a Facebook post from his sister, Roula Abu Zeid, and local news reports.
Since then, the court has repeatedly renewed his detention period, including on September 18, according to Roula and reports.
On January 13, 2019, a prosecutor granted Abu Zeid a furlough to attend his father’s funeral, according to Mada Masr, and the American news outlet Al-Hurra.
As of late 2019, the Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office had not answered CPJ’s emails requesting comment.