Egyptian authorities continue to imprison critical journalists while openly pledging media freedom. Egypt has the highest number of journalists behind bars since CPJ began keeping records, most of them accused of affiliation with a banned group. A special report by the Committee to Protect Journalists
Published June 25, 2015
“We are not going to replace Islamist fascism with a civil one,” Ahmed al-Mosallamany, spokesman for the transitional president, told CPJ in August 2013, a month after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Mosallamany also promised constitutional changes that would improve press freedom in the country.
But today, almost two years later, journalists face unprecedented threats in President Abdelfattah el-Sisi’s Egypt.
A prison census CPJ conducted on June 1, 2015, found that Egyptian authorities were holding at least 19 journalists behind bars in relation for their reporting, the highest in the country since CPJ began recording data on imprisoned journalists in 1990. The threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of an atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics. Entire outlets, such as Al-Jazeera and the Turkish Anadolu news agency, have been banned from operating or forced to close their offices, according to CPJ research.
In a February 2015 mission to Egypt, CPJ spoke to high-level officials, including the prosecutor-general and the minister of transitional justice, who denied that Egypt was holding any journalists in jail in relation to their work. But CPJ research shows that the government of el-Sisi, who was elected president in May 2014, has used the pretext of national security to crack down on human rights, including press freedom.
In the midst of what authorities called a war on terrorism following Morsi’s removal from office, the government banned the Muslim Brotherhood and declared it a terrorist organization. Since then, the Egyptian government has indiscriminately charged journalists and political detainees with belonging to the illegal group. Most of the journalists in prison on June 1, 2015, are accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have called the ban on the group political retribution by the authorities.
Due to heavy restrictions placed on journalists in Egypt, entire regions are severely under-reported. One example is the Sinai peninsula, where little is known about the ongoing conflict between militant groups and Egyptian security forces or about the toll of the violence on residents who have faced forced evictions and reprisal from all sides. Journalists attempting to cover news in the peninsula have been denied entry at military checkpoints, while others who live there face threats from both the authorities and militant groups, according to local journalists who spoke to CPJ. “Journalism is over in the Sinai,” one veteran reporter who has worked extensively in northern Sinai and asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, told CPJ. “The only reporting we can do is [to] tell the army’s story. Anything else is a prison wish.”
The arrests of journalists in Egypt are often violent and involve beatings, abuse, and raids of their homes and confiscation of their property, according to CPJ research. Their prison cells are often unclean and overcrowded. In letters from prison, some journalists wrote that they often do not see sunlight for weeks; others described the torture of prisoners, including the use of electric shocks.
Journalists imprisoned in Egypt have often gone missing for periods of time, their whereabouts unknown to lawyers or family members, CPJ research shows. Their court hearings sometimes take place without notice to the journalist or lawyers. Other times, prison authorities refuse to allow the journalist to attend the court hearing or sentencing.
Egypt’s courts have been criticized by regional and international rights groups for conducting sham trials, and for handing out extreme sentences. Six of the journalists in CPJ’s census were sentenced to life in prison in a mass trial of 51 defendants. Several others are being held in pretrial detention, and have not had a date set for a court hearing. “Don’t think that being in jail is a manly thing, like they show you in the movies,” Egyptian photographer Shawkan told another Egyptian photographer during a prison visit in 2014. “Every day in jail, I learn more about subjugations, about injustice.”
More than half of the journalists on CPJ’s census worked online. The Internet, which could be considered the only space left for free speech and independent reporting in Egypt, is becoming increasingly dangerous.
With no parliament in place since 2012 and parliamentary elections repeatedly postponed, el-Sisi has had full legislative authority. The president is expected to sign into law a draft cybercrime bill, framed as anti-terrorism legislation, which allows law enforcement agencies to block websites and pursue heavy prison sentences against Internet users for vaguely defined crimes such as “harming social peace” and “threatening national unity.” The potential implications for bloggers and journalists are dire, according to regional experts focusing on information systems and human rights. The bill has been endorsed by the cabinet, and is awaiting el-Sisi’s approval to come into law, according to news reports.
Some of the journalists included in the report were arrested prior to CPJ’s last census on December 1, 2014; for six of those cases, the organization was unable to confirm at the time that they had been arrested in connection with their work and not with political activism. In some cases, the detainees did not want to be publicly identified as journalists for fear of it hurting their chances of release; in others, the journalists’ colleagues and relatives told CPJ that they had been afraid to speak out at the time, fearing reprisal against themselves or worsening conditions for the detainee.
The release of the journalists in the high-profile Al-Jazeera trial in February 2015 lifted hopes of the families and colleagues of other journalists imprisoned in the country and led to more information about the detainees being available. In some cases, CPJ was able to obtain detailed information about imprisoned journalists from others who had been forced to flee the country and into exile.
A recent example of CPJ’s difficulty in obtaining information about journalists imprisoned in Egypt is the case of two journalists working for the Kuwaiti satellite station Al-Shahed who were allegedly arrested in April while covering attacks on the Media Production City outside of Cairo. Egyptian authorities and Al-Shahed have not responded to CPJ’s calls and inquiries seeking information about the journalists’ names and whereabouts. The journalists do not appear on our census as CPJ was unable to confirm if the journalists were still in custody on June 1, 2015.
CPJ sent a letter requesting comment, as well as a list of the imprisoned journalists, to Egyptian Attorney General Hisham Barakat, Minister of Transitional Justice Legal Adviser Yasser Safwat, and Egyptian Assistant Minister of Interior Gen. Abu Bakr Abdel Karim. CPJ did not get a response.
Below are capsule reports on each journalist jailed in Egypt on June 1, 2015:
Mahmoud Abdel Nabi, Rassd
Imprisoned: July 3, 2013
Abdel Nabi, a correspondent for the critical news website Rassd, was arrested while covering clashes between supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and supporters of the Egyptian army in the Sidi Beshr neighborhood in Alexandria, according to news reports. At least four people were killed and 84 injured in the clashes, reports said.
A prosecutor charged Abdel Nabi and at least 14 others with possessing weapons and inciting rioting, according to the state-run paper Al-Ahram. The journalist was being held at Burg Al-Arab prison outside Alexandria, according to Rassd.
Abdel Nabi's trial, which was delayed several times, was ongoing in late 2014.
After Morsi's ouster on July 3, 2013, the military-supported government detained dozens of local and international journalists. Most have been freed.
Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan), Freelance
Medium: Internet, Print
Charge: No Charge
Imprisoned: August 14, 2013
Abou Zeid, a freelance photographer, was detained while covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi during the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, according to news reports.
Abou Zeid has contributed to the U.K.-based citizen journalism site and photo agency Demotix and the digital media company Corbis. After his detention, Demotix sent a letter to the Egyptian authorities confirming that Abou Zeid had been covering the clashes for the agency, the photographer's brother, Mohamed Abou Zeid, told CPJ.
Abou Zeid was first detained by police and held in Cairo stadium with other protesters and foreign correspondents who were released the same day. In September 2013, the Egyptian general prosecutor's office extended the journalist's pre-trial detention, Mohamed Abou Zeid told CPJ.
Mohamed told CPJ in 2014 that Abou Zeid's lawyer and the legal team at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information had appealed for his release. The appeal was denied.
On May 14, 2015, Abou Zeid appeared before a judge for the first time since his arrest, according to news reports. The judge ordered the journalist to speak about his case and renewed his pre-trial detention, according to the Freedom for Shawkan campaign. The journalist, whose lawyer was not present in court, told the judge about his arrest and denied the allegations against him.
The journalist is under investigation for weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder, according to news reports. The Freedom for Shawkan campaign said Abou Zeid has not been formally charged.
No trial date had been scheduled as of June 1, 2015.
The journalist is being held at Tora Prison. Human rights groups said Abou Zeid's health had deteriorated in prison. A campaign for his release has led to global protests and online petitions on behalf of the journalist.
Abou Zeid wrote a letter to mark his 600th day in jail in April 2015. The letter described the abuse he has suffered since his arrest and urged for advocacy on the behalf of detained journalists in Egypt.
Samhi Mustafa, Rassd
Imprisoned: August 25, 2013
Abdullah al-Fakharany, Rassd
Imprisoned: August 25, 2013
Mohamed al-Adly, Amgad TV
Imprisoned: August 25, 2013
Mustafa, co-founder of the news website Rassd, Rassd Executive Director Abdullah al-Fakharany, and Amgad TV presenter Mohamed al-Adly were arrested on August 25, 2013, in the home of the son of a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In February 2014, the three were charged with "spreading chaos" and "forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government" during the dispersal of the sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, where Egyptians had gathered to decry the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. The dispersal left hundreds dead, according to news reports. The Egyptian government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization.
The prosecutor-general also accused the Muslim Brotherhood of using several media outlets, including Rassd and Amgad TV, to support its plot to take over the government and spread lies about the military and the government.
A Cairo criminal court sentenced all three journalists to life in prison on April 11, 2015. They had been tried along with 48 other defendants including prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Life sentences in Egypt are 25 years long, and can be appealed, according to news reports.
Ahmed Helmy, the journalists’ lawyer, told CPJ in May 2015 they plan to appeal the sentence. No appeal date was scheduled by June 1, 2015.
The three journalists were being held in Tora prison, southeast of Cairo. In a letter from prison that was publicized on May 3, 2015, World Press Freedom Day, al-Fakharany described being beaten and abused in custody.
Saeed Abuhaj, Sinai Media Center
Imprisoned: November 4, 2013
Abuhaj, a videographer, was arrested from his day job at a tax agency in the city of Arish in northern Sinai and charged with inciting violence, participating in demonstrations, and using arms against police, among others, according to news reports and local journalist unions.
Abdel Qader Mubarak, head of the Federation of Journalists and Reporters in Sinai, told CPJ that he believed Abuhaj could have been targeted because of his coverage of Muslim Brotherhood meetings and protests in northern Sinai. The Egyptian government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood an illegal organization.
In a statement by the federation, Abuhaj’s lawyer, Saeed al-Kassas, said that the accusations against the journalist were based on a leaflet bearing Muslim Brotherhood slogans which police found with Abuhaj. The prosecution was also relying on video footage showing Abuhaj at a Muslim Brotherhood demonstration. Abuhaj told prosecutors that he was using the leaflet as part of his coverage of protests, and that he attended demonstrations as part of his work as a journalist, the federation told CPJ. The lawyer said there was no proof that Abuhaj participated in any violent activity, according to the federation’s statement.
Abuhaj worked for the Sinai Media Center, which is made up of a group of journalists who post news items, videos, and photos online, and feed information to other news outlets. Abuhaj’s work, including his coverage of terrorist attacks, was also published by the Rassd Sinai News Network. Abuhaj covered demonstrations, deadly clashes, and the destruction of government buildings that occurred as part of the conflict between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and government forces following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi. Abuhaj also covered socioeconomic issues such as fuel shortages in northern Sinai.
Terrorist attacks and fighting between state forces and militant groups have made Sinai more dangerous and restrictive to reporters in recent years. Journalists face threats from violent anti-government groups as well as state security forces, Mubarak said.
On November 17, 2013, a court in Arish ordered Abuhaj held in pretrial detention, according to news reports. His pretrial detention has been periodically renewed, but no trial date was set as of June 1, 2015, Mubarak said.
Abuhaj is being held in Arish Central Prison. He suffers from a problem with his spine and receives medication sent by his family, according to Mubarak.
CPJ did not include Abuhaj in its 2013 or 2014 prison census because the organization was not aware of his imprisonment until May 2015.
Hany Salah el-Deen, Misr 25
Imprisoned: November 28, 2013
Salah el-Deen was arrested while trying to board a flight from Cairo to Beirut, according to news reports. He was interrogated and accused of involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood, the reports said. Salah el-Deen’s family said he was traveling for medical purposes, but other news reports and Hazem Ghorab, the general manager of Misr 25, told CPJ he was traveling to look for work.
Misr 25, a channel supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, was shut down when the military ousted former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Ghorab told CPJ that Salah el-Deen was the news manager for the outlet and hosted his own TV show. After the outlet shut down, he couldn’t find work elsewhere. Prior to working at Misr 25, Salah el-Deen was a managing editor for Youm Sabea, according to that news website.
Salah el-Deen’s TV show on Misr 25 was called "Matafi 180” (Firefighters 180). On June 26, 2013, one week before the station was shut down, Salah el-Deen aired an audio recording in which unidentified individuals called for Egyptian security forces to assassinate Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
On his show, Salah el-Deen regularly accused media critical of the Muslim Brotherhood of serving the interests of the former government of President Hosni Mubarak. On June 20, 2013, amid calls for nationwide protests against the Muslim Brotherhood, Salah el-Deen said he received telephone threats in retaliation for his criticism of anti-Brotherhood media. He broadcast the phone numbers from which he received the threats, which he said included statements such as: "Don't you dare let me hear your voice again. …We will do to you what national security used to do to you earlier." Egyptian police and national security are known to have tortured and killed Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist sympathizers under previous regimes.
A Cairo criminal court sentenced Salah el-Deen to life in prison on April 11, 2015. He was tried, along with 50 other defendants including prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, on charges of "spreading chaos" and "forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government" during the dispersal in August 2013 of the sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, where Egyptians had gathered to decry the ouster of Morsi. The dispersal left hundreds dead, according to news reports.
It is unclear if Salah el-Deen is appealing.
Salah el-Deen’s family said in December that he was put in solitary confinement for 21 days and not allowed medical treatment during the six months he spent in Tora prison, a high-security prison in Cairo. He suffers from chronic health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and weak eyesight.
Local journalists expressed solidarity and organized demonstrations to pressure the government to release Salah el-Deen. In mid-April 2015, the journalist was sent to Al-Manyal hospital in Cairo to be treated for his health conditions, according to news reports.
CPJ did not include Salah el-Deen in its 2013 or 2014 prison census because the organization was unaware of his case.
Mohamed Ali Salah, El-Shaab el-Jadeed
Imprisoned: December 27, 2013
Salah was arrested while covering student protests at Al-Azhar University in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo on December 27, 2013, according to the opposition news website El- Shaab el-Jadeed.
Salah, who was 19 at the time of his arrest, was a photojournalist in training with El-Shaab el-Jadeed and was pursuing a degree in media studies at Egypt University for Science and Technology in Cairo, according to his outlet and the regional group Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
Salah wrote several reports for El-Shaab el-Jadeed and took photographs of anti-government protests in November 2013 around Nasr City and other parts of Cairo. El-Shaab el-Jadeed is critical of the current Egyptian government. Magdy Hussein, who was El-Shaab el-Jadeed’s editor-in-chief at the time, called for demonstrations in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In February 2014, a Cairo criminal court sentenced Salah to five years in prison on charges of illegal demonstrations and inciting violence, according to local human rights groups and his news outlet. At least 22 others were convicted in the same trial.
In court documents, the judge wrote that he was not convinced that Salah was a journalist, despite Salah’s defense lawyer presenting documents and ID cards indicating his training with El-Shaab el-Jadeed, according to the regional group Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
On March 18, 2014, a higher court amended Salah’s sentence to three years in prison, a sentence which he cannot appeal, according to his outlet. Local rights organizations and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate called for a pardon for Salah.
An injunction filed by Salah’s defense lawyers against his sentence was rejected by a Cairo court on May 10, 2014, according to his outlet.
CPJ was unable to determine Salah’s health status or whereabouts. CPJ’s calls to El-Shaab el-Jadeed were not answered.
CPJ did not include Salah on its 2014 prison census because CPJ was unable to determine at the time if his imprisonment was in connection with his journalistic work.
Ahmed Fouad, Karmoz
Imprisoned: January 25, 2014
Fouad, a reporter for the news website Karmoz, was arrested while covering a demonstration by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the neighborhood of Sidi Beshr in Alexandria governorate, according to his employer and local press freedom groups. The protest led to violent clashes between protesters and security forces.
Fouad was charged with "joining a group that aims to disrupt the law," "demonstrating without permission," "blocking a road," and "possessing a weapon," according to news reports. His court hearings, scheduled to begin on December 14, 2014, in Alexandria, were postponed four times, according to the press freedom group Journalists Against Torture Observatory. The next hearing is scheduled to take place in October 2015, although the exact date has not been specified, the group said.
Karmoz denied the allegations against Fouad and said he was doing journalistic work at the time of his arrest. The website covers local news and politics in Alexandria.
Mosad Albarbary, Ahrar 25
Imprisoned: April 2, 2014
Albarbary, the administrative manager of Misr 25, a TV channel affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, was arrested in Beirut, where he had gone to reopen and manage another satellite station, Ahrar 25, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hazem Ghorab, Misr 25’s general manager, told CPJ. The Egyptian government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization.
Ahrar 25 operated from Lebanon between September 2013 and February 2014 but faced several disruptions before being finally removed from the air due to pressure from neighboring governments, according to news reports citing Islam Akl, a host at the station.
Albarbary was arrested near Rafik Hariri airport while he was waiting for the arrival of Mokhtar al-Ashry, head of the legal department of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports. Al-Ashry was detained first and, when Albarbary inquired about him with airport authorities, he was also arrested. Both were detained for five days by Lebanon’s National Security, following a request by the Egyptian government, then were deported to Cairo with Egyptian security agents, the reports said. Lebanese authorities said Albarbary had been extradited based on a bilateral extradition treaty between the countries, according to news reports. Ahrar TV staff members fled Lebanon after Albarbary was arrested, according to reports.
Albarbary was charged with “publishing false news” in order to support the Brotherhood’s alleged operations room during the dispersal of the August 2013 sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, where Egyptians had gathered to protest the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. The dispersal left hundreds dead, according to news reports. He was also charged with “spreading chaos” and “forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government" during the dispersal.
Albarbary was tried along with 50 other defendants, including prominent leaders Muslim Brotherhood, who faced similar charges. Albarbary’s lawyer, Mahmoud Amer, told CPJ that Albarbary was added to the Rabaa operations room case after it was referred to court in March 2014.
On April 11, 2015, a Cairo criminal court sentenced Albarbary to life in prison. Life sentences in Egypt are 25 years long, and can be appealed, according to news reports. Amer told CPJ that he would appeal the verdict. No appeal date was scheduled by June 1, 2015.
Albarbary was being held at Tora prison. In April 2015, his wife said that prison authorities were restricting her visits to the journalist. Amer told CPJ the journalist was in good health.
CPJ did not include Albarbary on its 2014 prison census because the organization was unable to determine at that time whether his imprisonment was related to his journalistic work.
Omar Abdel Maksoud, Masr al-Arabia
Imprisoned: April 15, 2014
Abdel Maksoud was first arrested on February 19, 2014, while covering a baby shower for a woman who had been taken into custody and forced to give birth in a hospital in handcuffs, according to news reports. The woman had been arrested on accusations of participating in an anti-government protest.
Activists organized a celebration for the woman and her baby in front of their home in the Al-Zawya Al-Hamra neighborhood in Cairo, days after the mother was released from custody, according to news reports. Police stormed the celebration, and beat and arrested the participants, including Abdel Maksoud, according to news reports.
Abdel Maksoud, a photographer, was covering the celebration for the independent Masr al-Arabia news website, the outlet said. Masr al-Arabia said the journalist was charged with working for Al-Jazeera, which is banned in Egypt on the accusation that it uses its reporting to serve the interests of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
On April 15, 2014, he was arrested again while visiting his family at their house in Mit Ghamr City, north of Cairo. Abdel Maksoud’s family told reporters that police came to their house looking for the journalist, and arrested him and one of his brothers, Ibrahim. The next day, the police came back for another brother, Anas. All three were charged with setting fire to cars belonging to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s presidential campaign. The cars had been set on fire a few days prior to the arrest, according to news reports.
Abdel Maksoud was also charged with belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. His colleagues and friends publicly denied the accusation.
Masr al-Arabia said Abdel Maksoud was on assignment for them in Cairo at the time of the alleged crime. Cairo is hundreds of miles away from Mit Ghamr City, where the cars were attacked.
While Abdel Maksoud and his brothers were being held in pretrial detention, a court in the city of Mansoura ordered their release on bail twice, but the Ministry of Interior appealed in order to keep them in custody, according to reports citing their lawyer Malek Al-Ghazali. The court refused the ministry’s appeal and ordered their release a third time on September 11, 2014, according to the reports.
Despite the journalist’s family posting bail of 15,000 Egyptian pounds (US$2,000), the three brothers were not released. Ten days later, on September 21, 2014, Abdel Maksoud’s family and his lawyers were told that the prosecution had brought a new case against them and that the three had been charged with participating in an illegal demonstration in Mit Ghamr, according to reports citing their lawyer.
Although the three brothers were in detention, the Mansoura Criminal Court on January 19, 2015, sentenced them in absentia to life in prison on charges of setting fire to cars and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports. Abdel Maksoud and his defense lawyer were not informed about the court session.
The family’s lawyer said they were pursuing a retrial, as is customary when sentences are issued in absentia, according to reports. The next court hearing in the retrial is scheduled to be held on July 9, 2015, the regional group Arabic Network for Human Rights Information told CPJ. The group also said that Abdel Maksoud’s defense team would present evidence that he was working in Cairo at the time of the arson attacks in Mit Ghamr for which he is being tried.
On February 21, 2015, a criminal court in the city of Senbellawein, in the Dakahlia Governorate, sentenced Abdel Maksoud and one of his brothers to two years in prison on separate charges of illegal protests. That sentence was overturned on appeal on May 16, 2015, and the court cleared them of the illegal protest charges.
No trial date had been set for Abdel Maksoud on the charge of working for Al-Jazeera.
In detention and during interrogations, Abdel Maksoud suffered physical abuse, including police pulling out his fingernail in an attempt to pressure him to confess, according to his family and colleagues. Abdel Maksoud and his lawyers have denied all of the charges against him.
He is being held at Meit Selseil Prison in the Dakahliya governorate, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. He suffers from heart problems for which he has received medical attention in custody, according to colleagues.
CPJ did not include Abdel Maksoud in its 2014 prison census because the organization was unable to determine at the time if Abdel Maksoud’s imprisonment was related to his journalistic work.
Abdel Rahman Shaheen, Freedom and Justice Gate
Imprisoned: April 9, 2014
Shaheen, a correspondent for Freedom and Justice Gate, was arrested on the street in Suez City, according to news reports. Freedom and Justice Gate is a news website affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government has declared to be a terrorist organization.
In June 2014, a Suez court sentenced Shaheen to three years in prison and 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,400) on charges of inciting and committing violence during protests. His appeal was denied on December 25, 2014, according to his employer.
Freedom and Justice Gate condemned the arrest and denied the allegations against Shaheen in a statement issued shortly after the journalist's arrest. Shaheen's wife said the court did not allow his defense lawyer to present his case and did not inform them of the verdict, news reports said.
In February 2015, another Suez court sentenced Shaheen to an additional three years on charges of aiding terrorism and broadcasting false news, according to the local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture Observatory. The journalist’s wife told the group on May 24, 2015, that their lawyer had appealed the second verdict, but that the court had not yet reviewed the request for appeal.
Shaheen was transferred from Ataqa Prison in Suez Governorate in northeastern Egypt to Faisal police station, his family said in February 2015, according to news reports. They said they were not given an explanation for the transfer.
Emad Sayed Abu Zeid, Suef Online
Charge: Anti-State, False News
Imprisoned: September 1, 2014
Security forces arrested Abu Zeid from his home in the southern governorate of Beni Suef in September 2013 and accused him of publishing false news that harmed public opinion, both on the news website Suef Online as well as on social media affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports.
One month later, Abu Zeid was released pending investigation. In September 2014, he was rearrested when he appeared in court and was sentenced to three years in prison, according to his daughter, Fatma, who spoke to CPJ. According to local press freedom groups and Suef Online, he was convicted on charges of publishing false news and joining the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government has declared an illegal organization.
Abu Zeid is a correspondent for Al-Ahram Gate, the online portal of Egypt’s main state-run newspaper, Al-Ahram. He also frequently wrote for Suef Online, which was critical of the July 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the news website said.
According to Suef Online, Abu Zeid was arrested in connection with an article he wrote for the news website on September 10, 2013, that criticized the local government in Beni Suef. The journalist has written several other articles for Suef Online that criticized the military-backed government.
Abu Zeid’s brother, Shaaban Abu Zeid, said in an October 2013 press conference that his brother had been interrogated about his views of Morsi and the dispersal of a pro-Morsi sit-in on August 14, 2013, in which hundreds of protesters were killed. The journalist’s brother said that Abu Zeid was also asked to swear that he was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports.
On December 8, 2014, the journalist denied any affiliation with the banned group in a letter he wrote from prison, which was published on social media.
Abu Zeid is being held in a prison in the city of Fayyoum, where he still writes articles critical of the Egyptian government for Suef Online, according to news reports. His daughter Fatma told CPJ that the journalist’s appeal was scheduled for November 11, 2015.
CPJ did not include Abu Zeid’s case in its 2014 imprisoned census because CPJ was not able to determine at the time if the journalist’s imprisonment was related to his work.
Mohamed Ali Hassan, Misr Alaan and Al Nahar
Imprisoned: December 11, 2014
Police in plainclothes raided Hassan’s home at dawn on December 11, 2014, and took him, his wife, and their infant daughter to the Agouza police station in Cairo, Hassan’s wife told CPJ. They did not present a warrant, she said. She was released with their child after a few hours in custody.
Hassan, 31, is a correspondent for the privately owned news website Misr Alaan, which is affiliated with a satellite television channel of the same name. Both are sympathetic to ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and his supporters. The website has covered demonstrations against Morsi’s ouster.
During the arrest, police told Hassan and his wife that he had been detained because he worked for Misr Alaan, Hassan’s wife said.
Prosecutors charged Hassan with “spreading false news,” “inciting illegal protests,” “funding illegal protests,” as well as belonging to “an illegal group,” according to his wife and local rights groups. The Muslim Brotherhood is banned and listed as a terrorist organization in Egypt.
Hassan’s pretrial detention, at the Giza central prison, is periodically renewed by the prosecutor’s office. His request for release was rejected by a Cairo criminal court on May 3, according to rights groups. Hassan’s wife told CPJ he was in good health in prison.
No trial date had been scheduled as of June 1, 2015.
Hassan el-Kabbani, Freelance
Imprisoned: January 22, 2015
El-Kabbani, a reporter for several news websites, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s news website Freedom and Justice Gate and Rassd, has been in pretrial detention since his arrest, according to news reports. In the meantime, his name was added to the sentencing phase in a separate, mass trial, resulting in life in prison.
El-Kabbani is also a press freedom advocate and blogger who co-founded the “Journalists for Reform” movement in 2007. The movement, which identifies itself as a press freedom group, took a stand against the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and is critical of the current administration. Months before el-Kabbani was arrested, he wrote several articles in which he criticized the military-led government for ousting Morsi. His articles, several of which were published in Freedom and Justice Gate, also expressed support for a popular uprising against the government.
El-Kabbani was arrested in his home in the 6th of October neighborhood in Cairo and taken by security agents in plainclothes to the local national security headquarters, according to news reports and human rights groups. El-Kabbani’s wife said she and her brothers were also detained for one day and that el-Kabbani was abused in custody.
El-Kabbani was charged with espionage, damaging Egypt’s standing abroad, joining an illegal group, and disseminating false information to disturb public security and peace, among other charges, according to news reports. Prior to his arrest, his house was raided twice by police while he was out, according to the reports.
El-Kabbani’s wife said that one of the central pieces of evidence against the journalist was a phone call he had made to Dr. Mohammed Ali Beshr, a Muslim Brotherhood leader and Egyptian politician who served as minister of state under Morsi. His wife said the phone call was for journalistic purposes.
Cairo’s National Security Court continuously renewed el-Kabbani’s pretrial detention pending investigation, most recently on May 5, 2015, according to local rights groups and news reports. No trial date was scheduled by June 1, 2015, according to local press freedom groups.
Meanwhile, however, on April 11, 2015, el-Kabbani was sentenced to life in prison on different charges in a separate case, in which he was tried with 50 other defendants, including prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, all of whom were charged with "spreading chaos" and "forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government" during the August 2013 dispersal of the sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, where Egyptians had gathered to decry the ouster of Morsi. The dispersal left hundreds dead, according to news reports. The Egyptian government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. Life sentences in Egypt are 25 years long, and can be appealed, according to news reports.
El-Kabbani’s family and lawyer did not know he was being tried in that case until his name was read during the sentencing at the end of the trial, according to news reports. Egyptian authorities listed him as a fugitive in official court documents and tried him in absentia, even though he was in custody for the other case.
CPJ was unable to obtain el-Kabbani’s lawyer’s contact information to determine if the journalist would appeal the life sentence.
El-Kabbani’s wife said the journalist is being held at Scorpion prison, a maximum security prison that is part of Cairo’s Tora prison complex, with restricted visits, according to news reports.
Tarek Mahrous, Freelance
Imprisoned: January 31, 2015
Police in plainclothes arrested Mahrous while the journalist was in a cafeteria. Mahrous told CPJ that police first took him to his home in the Sheikh Zayed neighborhood of Cairo, where they confiscated his cameras, then to a police station in Sheikh Zyed.
Mahrous was charged with participating in and photographing illegal demonstrations and sending media materials to channels supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports and local human rights groups. The Muslim Brotherhood has been declared illegal in Egypt.
Mahrous, a freelance videographer, has contributed reports to Misr Alaan, a Turkey-based satellite TV station that has broadcast protests against the Egyptian government and is critical of Egyptian authorities, and other outlets, including the Egyptian government-owned Middle East News Agency.
Mahrous told CPJ that he was kept in the same police station but was interrogated by national security officers about his work with Misr Alaan and other outlets. Mahrous told CPJ that the police focused on videos of demonstrations and conferences he had produced for Misr Alaan about a group of activists who called for demonstrations during the third anniversary of the Egyptian uprising on January 25.
“They wanted to know the names of my colleagues, my media sources,” Mahrous told CPJ, “But I refused to give them any names.”
Mahrous told CPJ that he was kept in pretrial detention, without access to his lawyer or family, until May 18, 2015, when a Cairo criminal court judge ordered his release without bail, pending investigation. “I was lucky to see a fair judge, but there are many unlucky prisoners facing injustice and put in horrible conditions, with crowded dirty cells, without access to the outside world, for extended time,” Mahrous said.
Mahrous said that despite the judge ordering him to be released, he wasn’t freed until June 2. CPJ spoke to Mahrous on June 4.
No trial date had been scheduled by June 1, 2015.
Ahmed el-Tanobi, Arab Media Freedom Monitor
Imprisoned: January 31, 2015
Police arrested el-Tanobi at a Cairo metro station and took the journalist to his house, where they confiscated several items, and then to the police station, according to Kotb Elarabi, the head of the regional press freedom group Arab Media Freedom Monitor, and news reports.
El-Tanobi was officially charged with “incitement against the government,” “participating in illegal protests,” and belonging to an “illegal group,” according to the Monitor. In a message from prison published by the Monitor on May 8, 2015, the journalist denied all the allegations and said his only crime was telling the stories of Egyptian journalists.
El-Tanobi is an editor and the cultural affairs correspondent for the Muslim Brotherhood daily, Freedom and Justice, according to the paper’s Facebook page and the local press freedom group Journalists Against the Coup. He is also a researcher for the Arab Media Freedom Monitor.
Elarabi said that el-Tanobi had told him he had been followed by police after he participated in a January 8, 2015, press conference at the American University in Cairo, where the Monitor had launched a report covering journalists’ arrests.
Elarabi said that among the items confiscated from el-Tanobi’s house were the Monitor’s annual report and a receipt for the university hall rented for the conference.
El-Tanobi has also been accused of publishing false reports that harm Egypt’s image abroad, Elarabi said. The allegation is not an official charge.
In February 2015, el-Tanobi’s wife said the journalist was abused and beaten during his arrest and that he was being kept in crowded jail cells, according to a video published on YouTube by the opposition Egyptian newspaper El-Shaab el-Jadeed. In March 2015, the journalist’s family said he was being held in Giza central prison.
The Monitor called for el-Tanobi’s release in a statement on its Facebook page, which also showed el-Tanobi’s press ID.
No trial date had been scheduled by June 1, 2015.
On June 4, a Giza court ordered el-Tanobi to be released on bail. The journalist was released on June 9, Elarabi said.
Abdelrahman Abdelsalam Yaqot, Karmoz
Charge: Anti-state, Retaliatory
Imprisoned: March 21, 2015
Yaqot, a photographer for the independent news website Karmoz, was detained by two police officers in plainclothes outside the Fauzi Maath police station, in the coastal city of Alexandria, where he had gone after getting a tip about a bomb threat at the station, according to Karmoz.
When Yaqot told the officers that he was a photographer, they verbally harassed him, beat him, and confiscated his press card, mobile phone, camera, and bag. Karmoz reported. The website said Yaqot was then taken to his house, where police searched his apartment without a warrant. Local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture Observatory reported that Yaqot’s lawyer said police did not find any evidence against Yaqot in his apartment.
Yaqot is charged with possessing explosives, which authorities said he had in his bag, “participating in an illegal protest,” and belonging to an “illegal group,” the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Journalists Against Torture and Karmoz. The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt.
The journalist’s lawyer and Karmoz said that Yaqot was not involved with the Muslim Brotherhood and had no political affiliations, according to news reports. Karmoz said he was arrested while doing his job for the website. Yaqot’s lawyer said he submitted documents to authorities that verified Yaqot’s legal employment at Karmoz, according to Journalists Against Torture.
Yaqot was being held in the Dekheila police station in Alexandria in pretrial detention. He has written several letters from jail, published by Journalists Against Torture and local media websites. In the letters, he describes the use of beatings and electric torture by security forces to collectively punish the group of detainees with which he is being held.
No trial date had been set by June 1, 2015.
Youssef Shaaban, Al-Bedaiah
Imprisoned: May 11, 2015
Shaaban, an editor and reporter for the independent news website Al-Bedaiah, was arrested when he appeared in court for an appeal hearing, according to Khaled al-Balshy, editor-in-chief of Al-Bedaiah and a board member of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate.
The appellate court in the city of Alexandria on May 31, 2015, confirmed the February conviction of the editor and sentenced him to 15 months in prison, according to news reports. Shaaban had been convicted in February, along with nine activists, on charges of assaulting police officers and attempting to storm a police station, the reports said. All of them denied the allegation and said the police officer had assaulted them, according to news reports. They were released on bail pending appeal, according to news reports.
The charges stemmed from a March 29, 2013, protest that Shaaban was covering at an Alexandria police station against the alleged police assault of a lawyer, according to Al-Bedaiah. The lawyer was representing defendants who were accused of burning the local headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports. Shaaban was briefly detained while covering the protest.
Al-Balshy told CPJ that Shaaban would appeal at the Court of Cassation, which would be his last legal resort. The editor said he, his outlet, and the syndicate would ask the prosecutor general to release Shaaban until that court heard his case. Al-Balshy told CPJ that Shaaban has Hepatitis C and requires medical attention.
Shaaban is at Burg Al-Arab prison, in Alexandria, according to news reports.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This report and the accompanying capsules have been corrected to reflect the addition of Mahmoud Abdel Nabi, who was mistakenly left off the census when it was initially published. The text has also been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Abdullah al-Fakharany's name.