Award-winning Sinai journalist, Ahmed Abu Deraa, was detained for 15 days, claimed Al-Masry Al-Youm, the newspaper Abu Deraa works for.
The newspaper said that Abu Deraa is accused of publishing false news concerning the armed forces.
The Office of the Military Spokesperson refused to disclose the Abu Deraa’s charges. They said that Abu Deraa’s arrest happened near an army camp in Arish. They denied that he is a journalist as he “does not hold the Press Syndicate ID”, adding that he also did not possess a license to go into military-restricted areas in Sinai.
Abu Deraa reported on 3 September that four people were injured, and six houses and a mosque were destroyed during an aircraft bombing of El-Toma and El-Mokata’a villages. The military spokesperson denied the report.
Abu Deraa, who works for Al-Masry Al-Youm and ONTV news channel, is the 2013 recipient of the European Union’s Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press for his 2012 investigative article on human trafficking in Sinai.
Al-Masry Al-Youm said that it has formed a legal committee to defend Abu Deraa.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) denounced Abu Deraa’s arrest, in an official statement. CPJ deputy director, Robert Mahoney said that “The detention of Ahmed Abu Deraa harkens back to the Mubarak era when journalists faced formidable obstacles reporting on military activity in the Sinai Peninsula, The military should release him immediately and allow journalists to work freely throughout the country.”
The association Reporters Without Borders also issued a statement demanding “the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmad Abu Deraa”
The Journalists’ Syndicate said, in a press release, that it is “concerned” with Abu Deraa’s arrest and demanded that authorities reveal the charges that he is facing. The syndicate insisted that journalists’ freedom is untouchable, and that citizens, especially journalists, should be tried in front of a civil judge. The statement added that the syndicate refuses the detention of journalists in crimes regarding publishing news.
The National Council for Human rights announced solidarity with Abu Deraa, according to the council’s member Salah Sallam. The council condemned the arrest and said that it is willing to take any procedure to free Abu Deraa. The Sinai Journalists and Reporters Union also announced solidarity with Abu Deraa, along with 6 April Youth movement and El-Dostour party.
A similar case was filed against another Sinai-based journalist, Mohamed Sabry, who is currently facing trial after being charged of entering a military zone illegally and photographing military facilities without permission. Sabry was arrested in January 2013.
The No Military Trials for Civilians group issued a statement condemning the 10-judge-committee responsible for presenting amendments to the 2012 constitution “ignoring their suggestions regarding banning military trials for civilians”, describing it as “adding legitimacy to the military trying civilians”. The group re-sent these suggestions to the constituent assembly according to the statement.
The 2012 constitution, which is currently in the process of being amended, allows for military trials of civilians in crimes against the armed forces. The first draft for constitutional amendments did not ban the military trials of civilians.