The detention of journalist Abdel Rahman Shaheen, accused of inciting and participating in violence, and belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was renewed for a fourth time on Friday, after spending 58 days in police custody.
Shaheen was arrested in the street in the port city of Suez on 9 April, according to media freedom watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Shaheen previously worked for pro-Islamist television channel Misr 25 and the official newspaper of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)—the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, both of which have been closed by the government since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.
Media reports initially said Shaheen was a freelance journalist for Al Jazeera, but Osama Saeed, spokesman for the Qatar-based network, said that Al Jazeera has not had any staff in Egypt since the 29 December arrest of three of its journalists.
Ahmed al-Ajos, another journalist for the FJP’s newspaper, was arrested from his home in Menufiya, a city in the Nile Delta, the same day Shaheen was detained. Shaimaa Abul Kheir, a spokeswoman for the CPJ, said that al-Ajos remained in detention as well.
Journalists, especially those seen as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, have been subjected to an increasingly severe crackdown since former president Mohamed Morsi was removed from office. Misr 25 was closed by the government immediately following the ouster, while the FJP newspaper was shut down in December—the same month the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation.
On 14 January FJP reporter Samah Ibrahim was arrested while covering a pro-Morsi demonstration that ended in clashes with security forces. She and nine other people were sentenced to one year hard labour for illegal assembly, taking part in a political protest, breach of public security, endangering citizens, stalling traffic and assaulting people as well destroying public and private property. The conviction was strongly condemned by Egypt’s Press Syndicate.
Ten journalists have been killed while working in Egypt since the January 2011 toppling of Hosni Mubarak, with six deaths since Morsi was removed by the military on 3 July 2013.
There are currently 16 journalists detained in Egyptian prisons. Three Al Jazeera journalists are on trial facing charges of spreading false news to tarnish Egypt’s reputation and “creating a terrorist media network”. They have repeatedly been denied bail, and their trial has been adjourned or postponed 11 times since it began mid-February.
In a separate incident, Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah ElShamy was arrested over nine months ago at the violent clearing of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square. He has yet to be brought up on formal charges. ElShamy has been on hunger strike for 135 days, and recent medical tests revealed that his health is in critical condition.
The CPJ and Reporters Without Borders have called on president-elect Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to address press freedom and human rights violations when he assumes office.
Adopted in January of this year, Article 70 of Egypt’s constitution guarantees the freedom of the press, while Article 71 prohibits government censorship of newspapers and media outlets except in “time of war or general mobilisation”.