Mr. Mohamed Fayak
Head of the National Council for Human Rights
69 Giza street, next to the Saudi embassy
Subject: Situation of imprisoned journalists in Egypt.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) is writing to you to inform you of the situation of imprisoned journalists in Egypt, demanding that you seek to ensure the freedom of those journalists, who are harshly treated by the authorities for carrying out their journalistic profession. AFTE hopes that you will ensure the right of every journalist to work freely without restriction of personal freedom or threat to his/her physical safety.
AFTE is a group of lawyers and researchers, registered as an Egyptian legal entity since 2006 that works in the defense of freedom of expression and promotion of freedom of exchange of information.
There are various violations against journalists, notably arbitrary arrest, which is one of the frequent patterns of violations monitored and documented by many human rights institutions in recent years, as well as was indicated by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in one of his speeches, where he called for a revision of cases of imprisoned students. Journalists are among the groups that have been subjected to random arrests on many occasions.
We also wish to inform you that journalists are directly targeted by security authorities, and the most vulnerable categories of journalists are photojournalists. Journalists are also directly targeted against the background of investigative reports, as was the case with journalist Ismail Al-Iskandarani, currently in precautionary detention, because of his press reports on the situation in North Sinai. A number of journalists and media workers are now behind bars in the Raba’a operation room, Mekamelin 1 and 2 cases, which constitutes targeting media workers that the state considers to be undermining security and stability. Among them is Mahmoud Hussein, who is being held in custody in case No. 11152 for the year 2016, because of his work as a news producer in the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel.
In addition, investigating bodies use precautionary detention as a punishment in itself and not a precautionary measure, since most arrested journalists are subjected to long period of precautionary detention, extending beyond the maximum duration of two years before referral to trial. There are in fact cases of journalists who spent a long period of precautionary detention, some of which extended beyond a year, before their innocence was proved or were released pending trials, including journalists Ahmed Gamal Ziada who spent 500 days in precautionary detention before the court acquitted him in the case known the media as “Al-Azhar university events” in December 2013.
We would like to refer to a statement by the National Council for Human Rights in a statement on the occasion of the African Day of Pre-trial Detention, on April 25 of each year, to “find a solution to this problem in particular and that a person may be held in custody and then after a long time is proved to be innocent, and thus would have been punished for a crime he did not commit.”
In order for the proceedings not to be unconstitutional and to avoid accusations of incarcerating journalists, investigative authorities, based on inquiries from the Interior Ministry, uses accusations that are very similar in all cases of imprisoned journalists: joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and demonstrating without authorization, in addition to the accusations related to the practice of the profession, which is always in the form of dissemination of false news, statements and rumors aimed at undermining security and stability.
We would like to draw your attention in particular to the case of photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zayd “Shawkan”, who is serving his fourth year in prison in precautionary detention. Shawkan suffers from a very bad health condition due to a chronic disease “Thalassemia”. He needs continuous medical care, which is not granted by the prison administration, which refused to transfer him to hospital, and does not follow the necessary rules for his treatment. Attached is a copy of his medical condition.
AFTE calls on the National Council for Human Rights, to review the attached cases of imprisoned journalists and to intervene according to his mandate of receiving complaints aiming for the respect of human rights, their study and addressing relevant bodies in their regard. We also appeal to the council to visit those journalists in prison and ensure that they are enjoying their rights, foremost the level of medical care, as well as seek their immediate release.