International press-freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for the immediate release of Yanair Gate journalist Mahmoud Al-Sakka in an official statement Tuesday.
Al-Sakka was arrested in Mohandesen on Thursday night and was taken to the Dokki police station. The National Security Apparatus detained Al-Sakka for 72 hours without disclosing his location before the prosecutor issued a detention order of 15 days pending further investigations.
“In its ongoing attempts to control the press and terrify the opposition, the Egyptian government showed total disregard for its own laws and processes”, CPJ’s MENA programme coordinator Sherif Mansour said. “We call on Egyptian authorities to immediately release Mahmoud Al-Sakka and to stop harassing and imprisoning journalists.”
Al-Sakka’s defence lawyer, Doaa Mustafa, told Yanair his charges relate to the state’s allegation that Al-Akka belongs to an illegal group called the Youth of 25 January. Mustafa alleged that Al-Sakka had been tortured and severely beaten during interrogating.
Al-Sakka studies agriculture at Benha University and the detention will cause him to miss his final exams. Mustafa said Tuesday that she will send an appeal to the prosecution to allow him to have his exams.
Meanwhile, Yanair Gate calls on fellow journalists to tweet about Al-Sakka on 10 January in a bid to support press freedom.
Immediately before his arrest, Al-Sakka wrote an editorial article wherein he criticised the latest parliamentary elections, its surrounding settings of oppression, and the Egyptian state’s alleged killings of Egyptian cilivians. He also described the current regime as “illegitimate”.
During his interrogation, Al-Sakka was threatened with enforced disappearance and being made to confess to charges of inciting riots and having committed violent crimes, Mustafa told Yanayir.
Al-Sakka also mentioned he was member of the Tamarod movement and took part in the presidential campaign of former candidate Hamdeen Sabahy.
The Press Syndicate sent a memorandum to the general prosecutor calling for Al-Sakka’s release, appealing to constitutional articles 41, 57 in addition to Article 40 of the penal code that guarantee personal freedoms and prohibit violence against defendants.
The arrest comes amid heightened security ahead of the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution which has included raids on Townhouse Gallery and Merritt Publishing House in addition to an increase in reports of arrests.
Mohamed Abdel Moneim, a journalist for Tahya Misr website, was sentenced to three years in prison on Sunday on charges of participating in an unlicenced protest that took place last April in Dar El-Salam.
Abdel Moneim has been in custody since his arrest at the protest.
The CEO of Tahya Misr website, Amr Serag, was summoned for testimony at court where he denied the alleged political affiliations of Abdel Moneim and said he was on an assignment to cover the protest. Nevertheless, the court decided to sentence him, citing Abdel Moneim’s lack of press syndicate membership, the only accreditation that registers print journalists.
Al-Sakka and Abdel Moneim are among 60 other journalists who have been subject to violations in December.
Local observatory group, Journalists Against Torture (JATO), stated in its December census report that it had monitored 34 incidents where journalists were banned from covering an event or the content of their cameras had been deleted. In addition, there were seven recorded cases in which journalists were verbally harassed by government security forces, six cases in which journalists faced litigation, four cases in which journalists had been subject to beating, three cases in which journalists faced punitive fines, three cases of detention, one case in which press equipment had been damaged, one case in which a journalist received was sentenced to prison in absentia, and one incident in which a journalist was arrested.