CJFE condemns the recent arrests of three journalists in Egypt. Hisham Jaafar, Hussam el-Sayed, and Mahmoud Mostafa Saad were all arrested within a span of five days. The whereabouts of El-Sayed and Saad are currently unknown.
Hisham Jaafar was arrested on October 21 after security forces stormed the offices of the Mada Foundation for Media Development in Cairo. After his arrest, staff were questioned for hours and security officers did not allow lawyers to enter the office or provide counsel to their clients. Jaafar’s lawyers later discovered that he was being kept at Tora prison and had been interrogated by National Security prosecutors. He has been accused of obtaining illegal foreign funding and of being affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The latter is the same charge that was given to recently pardoned Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste.
On October 22, Hussam el-Sayed was arrested in his home by security forces. El-Sayed also works for the Mada Foundation and is reportedly being investigated in the same case as Jaafar. The Mada Foundation is a non-governmental organization that offers media training and support for local journalists, and reports on news, lifestyle, health and Islamic spirituality. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Mahmoud Mostafa Saad was arrested at the Cairo airport on October 23. In a phone call to his wife, Saad explained that he had been arrested by security forces without explanation. No motive for Saad’s arrest has been determined and Egypt’s Ministry of Interior has denied any knowledge of Saad’s situation.
Recently, hundreds of people have been arrested or kidnapped and kept in unknown areas by security forces in Egypt. These “forced disappearances” were denied by the Ministry of Interior in a statement issued earlier in October. A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists has determined that Egypt’s imprisonment of journalists is at an all-time high. Egypt is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index.
While CJFE is encouraged by the recent pardon and release of 100 prisoners on Eid al-Adha, including journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed, countless other journalists continue to be unjustly convicted and detained in Egypt, many without charge. CJFE urges the Egyptian authorities to disclose the reasons for the arrest of Hisham Jaffar, Hussam el-Sayed and Mahmoud Mosatafa Saad, and act with justice if the charges arebaseless. Journalism should not be punished and the Egyptian government must free all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.