The First Quarterly Report on the State of Freedom of Expression in Egypt (From January 1 to March 30, 2024)

Date : Tuesday, 4 June, 2024

Prepared by: Monitoring and Documentation Unit, AFTE

Table of contents



Section One: An Overview of Developments in Freedom of Expression

Section II: Violations of Freedom of Expression

Conclusion and Recommendations



This report is based on the analysis of public policies by Egyptian authorities regarding the right to freedom of thought and expression in its various forms. Specifically, it focuses on the freedom of the press and media, artistic and creative expression, digital expression, and academic freedom and student rights. AFTE monitors and documents violations in these areas and provides legal support to victims through its Legal Aid Unit’s network of lawyers. The report presents and analyzes the patterns and incidents of violations recorded and documented from January 1, 2024, to March 30, 2024, following the monitoring and documentation methodology of the Association[1].



2024 began in the same way as 2023, with a relentless war against the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. This conflict has resulted in over 35,000 Palestinian casualties, mostly women and children, in what can be described as a genocidal and ethnic cleansing campaign by the Israeli occupation forces. The fighting continues in the densely populated and geographically constrained area adjacent to Egypt’s eastern border.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities have continued their practices of violating the right to freedom of expression, particularly when such expressions criticize the official Egyptian stance on the war in Gaza. Violations have been documented across various domains, including freedom of the press, artistic expression, academic freedom and student rights, digital rights, and the right to peaceful assembly.


This report aims to provide an analytical reading based on documented observations concerning the state of freedom of expression in Egypt during the first quarter of 2024. The first section offers an overview of the developments in the aforementioned areas, while the second section reviews the most significant patterns of violations against freedom of expression during this period.


Section One: An Overview of Developments in Freedom of Expression

Throughout the first quarter of this year, the Egyptian authorities, especially the security apparatus, continued to violate the right to freedom of expression in its various forms. This section highlights the most significant and severe violations affecting citizens’ rights to protest, strike, demonstrate, or participate in electoral processes.


This period saw the suppression of any calls supporting the Palestinian cause and opposing the genocidal war waged by the Israeli occupation forces on the Palestinian people in Gaza, just kilometers from the Egyptian border, where the security forces arrested over 100 individuals for participating in protests and demonstrations supporting the Palestinian cause.


Additionally, the authorities continued their security and judicial harassment of former presidential candidate Ahmed Tantawy and members of his campaign, which appears to be a form of collective punishment for exercising their legitimate right to participate in elections and challenge President Sisi.


Labor protests were also not spared from security interventions and harassment, as seen with the leaders of the Misr for Spinning and Weaving Company workers who went on strike for a week demanding meal allowance increases and equal treatment with government ministry and agency workers regarding the minimum wage set by the Egyptian President.


  • Gaza Under Bombardment, Supporters in Prison

At the outset of the war against Gaza, voices in Egypt rose in condemnation and called for Egypt to play a pivotal role in stopping the war and opening the Rafah border crossing to receive the wounded and facilitate the entry of relief aid.


Initially, the Egyptian authorities allowed a space for demonstrations and expressions of popular sentiment against Israeli aggression. However, they became significantly alarmed when the popular response escalated beyond control, particularly after protests broke out in October of the previous year from several squares in Cairo, most notably from Al-Azhar Mosque to Tahrir Square. The security forces were most disturbed by chants linking solidarity with Palestine to opposition against the political regime and rejecting the President’s hints at displacing Gaza’s residents into the Sinai desert. This led to a widespread arrest campaign, detaining around 122 individuals, most of whom remain in custody pending investigation as of this report.


Despite this security crackdown, supporters of the Palestinian cause from diverse political, rights-based, union, and popular backgrounds continued their advocacy. Initiatives like “Egyptian Women Journalists” called for demonstrations on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate under the banner “Bread and Salt” to show solidarity with the besieged Palestinian people and demand the protection of Palestinian journalists, 143 of whom have been killed in the war so far.[2]


These calls and participants did not escape security pursuits, leading to the arrest of 14 activists from a recent protest at the Journalists’ Syndicate in March. Most were released a day after arrest after a meeting between opposition leaders and a senior government official at an Egyptian Family Iftar. However, the weekly “Bread and Salt” protests before the Journalists’ Syndicate have since ceased.


Additionally, a group of Egyptian feminist activists from various backgrounds staged a march on March 8, starting from the Palestinian Women’s Union in central Cairo, where the security forces intercepted the march and forced the participants to disperse.


Similarly, the Popular Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian People organized several solidarity activities, including two humanitarian aid convoys. They also submitted a popular petition, signed by Egyptian and Arab figures, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to approve an accompanying delegation for the aid convoys into Gaza. Despite setting a meeting date to discuss the matter, the visit was canceled without explanation, prompting the committee to organize a protest outside the MoFA on the Nile Corniche in Cairo on March 18th. The security forces surrounded the protestors and forced them to leave. Unknown individuals later attempted to provoke and assault the Egyptian politician Hamdeen Sabahi, with the AlKarama Nasserist Party stating that security officials were directing the provocateurs.


  • Continued Suppression of Misr for Spinning and Weaving Company (El-Mahalla Spinning Company) Workers Despite Strike Concessions

In response to the political authorities’ efforts to mitigate the immense economic pressures resulting from unprecedented inflation rates and significant increases in the prices of essential goods, along with the devaluation of the local currency for the fourth time in just two years, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced a package of social protection measures. The most notable of these was raising the minimum wage to 6,000 Egyptian pounds; however, this decision was not applied to public sector workers, unlike those in government ministries and agencies.


This discrepancy led the 16,000 workers of the Misr for Spinning and Weaving Company, distributed across several factories affiliated with the company, to go on strike starting February 22th, demanding equality with government employees, among other demands. The workers decided to suspend their strike on February 29th after the government partially responded to their demands by agreeing to extend the minimum wage increase to public sector workers across various factories and companies, totaling 200,000 employees.


According to the House of Trade Union and Labor Services, the security services arrested 25 workers two days after the start of the strike, before releasing them late the same night, and 13 more workers were arrested a few days later, but they were also released the same night. With the partial response to the demands and the announcement of the suspension of the strike, and despite the workers’ respect for the company’s export commitments and not disrupting them during the strike, in addition to maintaining the various departments within the company as well as tools and machinery,  they were surprised by the arrest of nine of the workers who led the strike after the suspension decision.[3] Seven of them were later released, but two, Wael Mohamed Abu Zeid and Mohamed Mahmoud Tolba, remained detained in an unknown location until their appearance before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on March 10th. They were charged under case number 717 of 2024; the prosecution charged them with joining a group formed in violation of the provisions of the law and spreading false news, data and information, and their detention has been periodically renewed, with them being held in Prison 6 in the 10th of Ramadan City Prison Complex. Wael Mohamed Abu Zeid and Mohamed Mahmoud Tolba were released on May 26, 2024, before the publication of this report.


  • Continued persecution of El Tantawy and his supporters despite the end of the elections

The first quarter of this year saw President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s inauguration and swearing-in after his re-election for a new term ending in 2030. Despite the conclusion of the elections and the announcement of the results, security and judicial harassment continued against politician Ahmed El Tantawy, who attempted to run for the presidency but was prevented by the authorities through various means.


In February 2024, the Misdemeanor Court of Al Matariyyah sentenced former presidential candidate Ahmed El Tantawy and his campaign manager, lawyer Mohamed Moussa Abu Diar, to one year in prison with a suspended sentence and a bail of 20,000 pounds along with a five-year ban on Tantawy from running in parliamentary elections. The court sentenced the remaining defendants to one year in prison with immediate effect in case number 16336 of 2023, known in the media as the “Public Endorsements Case,”  in which 21 members and leaders of El Tantawy’s campaign, as well as El Tantawy himself and his campaign manager, were charged.

This comes at the background of El Tantawy calling on his supporters in a video posted on his Facebook page to print endorsement forms for presidential candidates from the Supreme Elections Commission’s website and to prepare public endorsements. This was in response to the widespread crackdown on his supporters in front of real estate registry offices -where public endorsements are issued- in various governorates while issuing public endorsement forms. Following this, he retracted his call and asked his supporters to stop printing the forms, due to the fierce security crackdown they were subjected to.


On October 9th, the Ministry of Interior announced in a statement the arrest of several individuals in Cairo, Alexandria, Giza, Fayoum, and Suez, while preparing forged endorsement forms for a potential presidential candidate. The statement mentioned finding 596 blank endorsement forms with the suspects’ signatures falsely indicating they were issued by real estate registry.


The following day, on October 10th, 2023, the Supreme State Security Prosecution decided to detain eight members of Tantawy’s campaign pending investigation, accusing them of participating in  terrorist group’s activities under case number 2255 of 2023. The prosecution later referred Tantawy, his campaign manager, and 21 other members and leaders of his campaign to the Misdemeanor Court based on Article 65 of the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights. The article stipulates that anyone who participates in the printing and circulation of opinion cards or any of the papers related to the electoral process, whatever the means, without the permission of the concerned authority, shall be punished with the same penalty if the candidate who benefits from the offence knows and agrees to commit it, in addition to depriving the candidate from participating in parliamentary elections for a period of five years.


It can be said that the first quarter of this year witnessed a significant development in the volume and severity of violations against freedom of expression in its various forms. The number of political prisoners notably increased, and the general public sphere remained under heavy control, suppressing all forms of expression. These trends are detailed further in the second part of this report, which highlights the most significant patterns of violations observed during this quarter.



Section II: Violations of Freedom of Expression

Violations against freedom of expression, in its various forms, have not ceased during the first quarter of this year. This section of the report aims to highlight the most prominent patterns and incidents of violations against freedom of expression, particularly in the fields of press and media freedom, artistic and creative expression, digital rights, academic freedoms, and student rights.


First: Press and Media Freedom

The issue of imprisoned journalists saw significant activity two years ago with the reactivation of the Presidential Pardon Committee during the Egyptian Family Iftar. The election of Khaled El-Balshy as the head of the Journalists’ Syndicate last year marked a qualitative shift in the syndicate’s focus on the issue of imprisoned journalists, as it has been one of El-Balshy’s main concerns in recent years.


During the first quarter of this year, several journalists who had been in pretrial detention for long periods due to cases related to their journalistic work or exercising freedom of expression in general were released.

However, this behavior cannot be seen as an indication of any breakthrough regarding the state of press and media freedom. Violations persisted relentlessly during this quarter against journalists and media freedom, with an escalation in the severity of these violations, whereby, The Supreme Council for Media Regulation decided to refer two editors-in-chief to an investigation over press coverage.


In the first quarter of 2024, three female journalists detained for their journalistic work were released[4]:

  • Hala Fahmy, a former broadcaster at Maspero, was released by the Supreme State Security Prosecution after more than a year and a half in pretrial detention under case number 441 of 2022. Fahmy had posted several videos on her Facebook page sharing her economic opinions and discussing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis. She reported being pursued by unidentified individuals in live videos, leading to her arrest shortly thereafter.
  • Manal Agrama, who had been in pretrial detention for over a year under case number 1893 of 2022, who was arrested in November 2022 due to her political views.
  • Safaa Al-Korbigi was released in January 2024 after 21 months of pretrial detention under case 441 of 2022.


All three journalists faced common charges such as spreading false news and misusing social media.


  • Targeting of Independent Journalism has become a Common Violation


The first quarter of this year also saw continued targeting of independent journalistic sites and their journalists by the Egyptian authorities. AFTE has documented the summoning of Lina Attalah, editor-in-chief of Mada Masr, for investigation by the Cairo Appeals Prosecution, which released her on a bail of 5,000 EGP under case number 22 of 2023. The prosecution accused Attalah of publishing false news and operating an unlicensed site.

The case dates back to November of the previous year when the Supreme Media Council referred Attalah to the Public Prosecution following a report against Mada Masr.[5] This report was related to an article discussing scenarios of Palestinian displacement from Gaza. The prosecution postponed the investigation indefinitely at that time but later summoned Attalah again after Mada Masr published a report about businessman Ibrahim Al Organi’s control over the coordination of exits from the Rafah crossing and the entry of aid into Gaza.

Mada Masr had applied for site licensing twice, in October 2018 and August 2020, but received no response from the Supreme Media Council. Additionally, The Administrative Court rejected Mada Masr’s appeal against the Council’s decision to deny the license in May last year, and the Administrative Supreme Court upheld the decision in December.

In March, security forces arbitrarily detained journalist Rana Mamdouh from Mada Masr in El Alamein city while she was on her way to Ras El-Hekma. Mamdouh reported her detention at an Alamein police checkpoint before communication with her was cut off. She reappeared hours later in Cairo’s prosecution, according to Journalists’ Syndicate head Khaled El-Balshy.

Following her release on bail by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, Mada Masr journalist Rana Mamdouh recounted her detention at the Alamein police station while on her way to Ras al-Hikma on a journalistic mission, saying that the decision to stop her at the Alamein toll station checkpoint was made as soon as officials at the checkpoint learned that she was heading to Ras al-Hikma as part of her work as a journalist, a profession indicated on her ID card, which the security officers at the checkpoint showed her, adding that the National Security officer at the checkpoint accused her of “going to conduct an interview without authorization.”[6]

According to Mamdouh, she was taken with the driver of the private car that picked her up from Cairo to Al Alamein police station, where the National Security officer asked for her mobile phone password, which she refused, and an hour later, a police force from the station took the driver to an undisclosed location.

After five hours of detention at the station, Mamdouh says she was taken in a transport vehicle to the State Security Prosecution in Cairo, without being informed, and without being allowed to contact her lawyer or family.

The prosecution assigned a lawyer of its own to be present with Mamdouh, but she requested the presence of her personal lawyer or the syndicate’s lawyer, which the chief prosecutor refused, saying: “The charge has nothing to do with your status as a journalist.” He added that National Security investigations indicate that the residents of Ras al-Hikma have filed complaints against her for allegedly inciting terrorism, and told her that if she did not answer the questions, he would issue a decision to detain her. At the end of the interrogation, the investigator told her that he would release her on bail, explaining: “Because you tired me out during the investigations. If you hadn’t tired me out, you would have been released without bail.”

These ongoing violations reflect the increasing repression of press freedom and demonstrate the urgent need to oblige the security services to respect the Constitution and the law when it comes to protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring their safety while carrying out their work.


  • Zat Masr Incident

In January, the Bureau of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation decided to summon the editor-in-chief and legal officer of Zat Masr for investigation on charges of publishing false and inciting news, which is the same procedure followed with Mada Masr, according to the testimony of one of the site’s officials, who preferred to remain anonymous, “The editor-in-chief of the website was referred for investigation on charges of publishing false news, although Al-Qahera 24 reported that the reason for referring the website for investigation was the publication of false news related to the presidential elections, but this is not true, as we did not address any news related to the elections because we focused on the war in Gaza.”[7][8][9]

The news was published in newspapers three days before we were contacted, then we were summoned by an official call for investigation, which was about a news story that was published on the website that bears no resemblance. The website’s officials were not informed of the outcome of the investigations until the moment of writing the report.

During the investigation, those responsible for the website were confronted with a news item related to the Senate and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, and asked about their source, then several hours later, the officials were accused of running an unlicensed website despite submitting papers to obtain a license four years ago.


  • Coverage Ban: A Persistent Violation

In the meantime, preventing coverage is one of the most frequent violations against press freedom during the past years. It is a violation that absolutely encroaches upon the concept of press freedom and the right to knowledge and circulation of information. On January 1st, AFTE monitored an assault by the administration of Minya University, and one of the security personnel accompanying the Minister of Higher Education[10], against a number of journalists while exercising their work in covering the visit of Dr. Ayman Ashour, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, to open a number of health and educational projects at Minya University.

This involved the physical assault of a journalist by security personnel accompanying the minister and the actions of the university’s administrative security staff, who closed the Faculty of Dar Al-Uloom Hall where a press conference was scheduled to be held, preventing colleagues from entering and speaking to them inappropriately, according to Mahmoud Kamel, a member of the Freedoms Committee of the Journalists’ Syndicate.

On February 22nd, Telegraph Egypt photographer Ahmed El-Nehiti was attacked by a member of the company organizing the wedding of Mahmoud Kahraba’s sister, resulting in a serious injury to the journalist with suspected fractures below the eye.[11] This prompted the journalist to file a report No. 126 at the tourism police office at the Kempinski Hotel. He accused the organizing company and one of its members of assaulting and injuring him. The journalist demanded the release of the hotel’s cameras to be attached to the report to identify the accused. The journalist was transferred to the nearest hospital for medical examination, cosmetic stitches under the eye, and x-rays to determine whether there are fractures or not, according to a statement by the Freedoms Committee of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate.


Second: Freedom of Creativity

AFTE documented six incidents involving six violations of creative freedom during the first quarter of this year, all linked to the 55th Cairo International Book Fair. The violations included banning certain books from display or participation in the fair, which commenced its cultural activities on January 25th. The fair is the most prominent cultural event for publishers and libraries, intensifying their cultural production to capitalize on the fair’s popularity.


AFTE recorded that the fair management banned several books from being displayed on the second and sixth days of the event without providing reasons. Additionally, some publishing houses were informed of being banned from participation just two days before the fair started, although most of these arbitrary decisions were later reversed without explanation.


A few days before the start of the fair, news circulated about the exclusion of some publishing houses from participating in the fair in its 55th session, despite the fulfillment of all the usual procedures, as well as the renewed exclusion of Tanmia Publishing House, for the third year in a row. Moreover, none of the publishing houses that were excluded or those that were unable to register in the initial stages received any official reasons for the ban on participation.


The publishing house ‎Al Kotob Khan announced the denial of its participation, without justification, in the activities of the fair for this edition of the fair. Through a statement on its official page on “Facebook” the publishing house stated “we were surprised at the last minute, a few hours before receiving our partition, that we were arbitrarily prevented from participating in this edition by the fair management, without giving any clear reasons or prior official notification. In fact, the space agreed upon for our pavilion was handed over to another publishing house, despite the payment of all expenses and the fulfilment of the paperwork required to participate in the fair, according to the announced conditions. This means squandering the efforts of writers and staff at the publishing house for many months in preparation for participating in the most important cultural event of the year.”


Karam Youssef, founder of the publishing house, said in her statements that the current edition would have represented the twelfth participation of Al Kotob Khan in the Cairo International Book Fair, emphasizing, “We were not banned in any previous session of the fair, and no book was confiscated for the house before that.” [12]


According to Youssef, the pavilion allocated to them was handed over to another publishing house, despite “paying the expenses and fulfilling the required paperwork according to the announced conditions,” noting that she does not know the fate of the expenses, adding, “Other publishers, as well, were prevented from participating.”


The exclusion of Al Kotob Khan the day before participating in the fair was also repeated with Tanweer publishing house,[13] which announced in its statement, “we regret to inform you that our participation in this year’s Cairo International Book Fair has been withheld, along with a number of fellow publishers, and we were notified of this only one day before receiving our partition, which remained reserved in our name until this morning. We spared no effort in trying to understand the reasons and motives that led to this, and we communicated with the relevant authorities in the Egyptian Publishers Association and the General Egyptian Book Organization, but we reached a cul-de-sac, and that this cancellation is nothing but an arbitrary decision that is not in the interest of publishers, nor in the interest of the Egyptian cultural climate.”


Dewan El-Arab publishing house also joined the list of those excluded from participating in this fair’s edition, joining Tanmia, which renewed its exclusion as in previous editions. The three excluded houses were characterized by their prevalence within the cultural and literary circles, as they had been present on the scene for many years and offered various publications “intellectual/philosophical/religious”.


Hours after this statement, Dewan El-Arab announced that it would return to participate in the fair after rectifying the error, but without explaining the reasons for the exclusion or participation, and the same was the case with Al Kotob Khan Publishing House, which stated that upon contacting the officials at the fair, they confirmed that the matter has been resolved and the issue has been overcome without commenting on the circumstances of the matter.

In his testimony to AFTE, a staff member of Tanweer Publishing and Media – who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons – an independent Egyptian publishing house focused on publishing intellectual and literary works, said that “on January 22nd, 2024, the house was surprised to be notified one day before receiving the partition allocated to it at the fair, of blocking their participation in this year’s Cairo International Book Fair, and that after communicating with the relevant authorities in the Egyptian Publishers Association and the General Book Authority, we did not reach reasons about preventing us from participating, considering this an arbitrary decision that is not in the interest of publishers, nor in the interest of the Egyptian cultural climate”, despite the similarity of the ban status of Tanweer with other publishing houses. Their participation was not resumed, in contrast to Al Kotob Khan and Dewan El-Arab publishing houses, to which our source did not find an answer, stressing that the “material and moral losses” to prevent them from participating are immense.

  • Repeated Ban for Security Reasons

It was a little different for Tanmia; according to an official inside the publishing house who refused to be named for security reasons, the house has been banned from participating for the fourth consecutive year. “We don’t know the real reason behind the ban from participating in this year’s edition, and we don’t know the reasons for what happened with us from the beginning or who is behind it, despite repeated attempts to participate without success.”


The official confirmed, “we don’t get notified to participate or not, we just submit the papers, we don’t get approval and we don’t have an opportunity to book a partition at the fair like other publishing houses, where the submission is in two stages, “The first is to submit the papers through the window on the website, and the second is to open the electronic system to book a space,” he said. Adding, “we always don’t make it to the second stage. It is unlikely that there is an error in the system.”


Tanmia Publishing House’s first exclusion occurred three editions ago following the arrest of its founder, publisher Khaled Lotfy.[14] Lotfy was tried in a military court and sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly revealing military secrets and spreading false information. This was due to him publishing an Arabic translation of “The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel” by Israeli historian Uri Bar-Joseph, in agreement with the Arab Scientific Publishers in Lebanon. This exclusion is likely due to security concerns.


  • Books Banned at the Fair
  1. Taming Tyranny, The New Dictatorship


On the second day of the opening of its 55th edition, the Rwafead publishing house received a request from the fair management house to remove four books by the writer Anwar Al-Hawari, titled: “Awaiting Freedom, Democracy or Decay, Taming Tyranny, and The New Dictatorship”, after several futile attempts to convince the fair management by the publishing house.


According to the testimony of writer Anwar al-Hawari to AFTE, this repeated ban for the second year in a row, which prompted him not to talk about the matter, as he believes that “this year exactly happened what happened last year, so I kept silent and did not comment, I found that the topic does not deserve any attention.” Last year, his books Taming Tyranny and The New Dictatorship were banned from display at the 54th edition of the book fair.


While Islam Abdel Aty, owner of Rwafead Publishing House, said that “the management of the fair asked me on the second day of the book fair in its 55th edition to remove the three books mentioned above by the political writer Anwar Al-Hawari, despite the books obtaining an deposit number without an official decision and when I wondered about the official documents, something that is repeated for the second year in a row despite the presence of the same books in bookshops,” he said, stressing that the fair management and the head of the General Egyptian Book Organization asked him to remove the books from display. Meanwhile, the publishing house was able to hold a seminar inside the fair about a story collection after the management reviewed it, as it is the one that organizes the seminars.


The conditions for participation in the fair[15] for its 55th session include that the participating publishing houses fill out and upload a copy of the list of books of the house in an Excel file form on the fair portal during submission, including “the name of the author, the name of the book, the deposit number, the price, and the classification, which indicates that the books were banned after the being displayed normally to participate in the fair without rejecting them.”


  1. Political Harem


The same fate befell “Political Harem,” published by the Moroccan publishing house Les Éditions Le Fennec”. According to Safaa Wali, the house’s representative at the fair, “on the sixth day of the fair’s launch, a visit by the censorship board of the fair to inform the representative of the house, “Safaa Wali”, of the decision to prevent the sale and display of the book “The Political Harem” and requested the withdrawal of the remaining copies and the removal of the poster advertising the book from the wall of the pavilion, which the publisher complied with out of respect for the decision of the fair management.


Wali added that the same book was banned at the last Riyadh International Book Fair in a similar manner.

Les Éditions Le Fennec Publishing House condemns any restriction on freedom of expression. The Political Harem, written by Fatima Mernissi and translated into Arabic by Hussein Sahban, it at a modernist reading of Islamic heritage and contributes to combating the obscurantist extremist ideology that has dominated Arab-Islamic culture for centuries. Interestingly, in 2023, a committee from the Riyadh International Book Fair withdrew the book “The Political Harem”, and the fair’s management justified its decision to withdraw the book and prevent it from being sold because some of its passages offend Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and his wives, according to Moroccan media.


Fatima Mernissi’s book “The Political Harem”, which was banned from participating in the 55th fair, deals with some of the questions that the author asks the reader at the beginning, related to the status of women in Islam and their ability to lead, among others.

Third: Digital Rights

The Egyptian authorities continue to try to restrict and nationalize the remaining spaces available for citizens to express their opinions by targeting content creators and publishers on various digital platforms, especially Facebook and TikTok. AFTE recorded six cases during the first quarter of 2024, including the arrest of citizens for posting content on Facebook that criticized the political authorities, expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause, or criticized religious institutions. Additionally, TikTok content creators were arrested for allegedly threatening Egyptian family values.


The violations vary between violations for political, social and entertainment reasons, according to what AFTE monitored in this quarter, and we will address them in detail in this section.


  • Judicial Targeting of Social Media Content Creators for Various Reasons

AFTE monitored the continued judicial targeting of content publishers on the Internet for various reasons, including religious ones. On the 11th of January 2024, AFTE monitored the referral of Kirollos Refaat, an assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at Menoufia University, to trial in Case 144 of 2024, Menouf Police Station, Economic Misdemeanors. Refaat was investigated and taken into custody on January 3rd after Bishop Benyamin, Bishop of Menoufia, filed a complaint against him. The story began when religious debates led to a disagreement between a number of clerics in the Menoufia diocese and Kirill Refaat, after which the priests accused Kirollos of being a Protestant and took a decision to ban him from Orthodox church service. He went to the Bishop of Menoufia to complain, but was forcibly prevented from entering the Orthodox churches in Menouf and Shebin El-Koum, and was physically assaulted and expelled. Kirillos filed reports of these incidents, then posted posts on his Facebook page criticizing the bishop and describing him as unethical and inhumane.


On January 3rd, Refaat went to Menouf police station to file a report against two unidentified men who threatened him at his workplace, and while doing so, he was taken into custody under the pretext of an arrest warrant pending investigations based on a complaint filed by the bishop on the 12th of November 2023 accusing him of defamation and damaging his reputation.


The public prosecution charged Rafaat with violating family principles and values in Egyptian society, invading the private life of Bishop Benjamin birth name Mikhail Younan, and publishing images that violated his privacy without consent on Facebook. Additionally, he was accused of slander, attributing actions to the bishop that would cause his contempt among his compatriots, creating and managing a Facebook account to commit the aforementioned crimes, intentionally harassing the bishop by misusing communication devices, and contempt of Christianity by promoting extremist ideas and denigrating the Christian religion, thus harming social peace.


On February 6th, 2024, the Tanta Economic Misdemeanors Court sentenced Kirillos Refaat to six months in prison with a suspended sentence, a fine of 100,000 EGP, and temporary civil compensation of 20,000 EGP in case number 144 of 2024, Menouf Economic Misdemeanors. Refaat appealed, and a hearing was set for March 17th, with a verdict scheduled for April 21st, 2024.[16]


Similarly, on January 28th, 2024, the Nozha Misdemeanors Court sentenced Ahmed Hegazy to six months in prison and a 2,000 EGP bail. Hegazy had appeared in a video on social media singing the Quran to the tune of an Oud. Following the video’s circulation, lawyer Mahmoud El-Semary filed a complaint against Hegazy. Hegazy apologized after the video went viral, acknowledging the Quran’s sanctity and recognizing that it was inappropriate to sing it in such a manner. Hegazy’s lawyer appealed the verdict, and a hearing was scheduled for March 17th, with a decision postponed to April 21st.[17]


In another case of political content targeting, on January 18th, 2024[18], the Nasr City Second Misdemeanors Court sentenced engineer Yahya Hussein Abdel Hadi, a former spokesperson and co-founder of the Civil Democratic Movement, to one year in prison with a suspended sentence for “spreading false news.” This was in connection with several opinion articles he published on his Facebook account.


The prosecution had investigated Abdel Hadi over three opinion pieces titled “When Will They Speak?”, “Shame and Dialogue,” and “Everyone Should Be Released, Including the Brotherhood,” accusing him of “publishing false news domestically and abroad” under articles 80(d) and 102(bis) of the Penal Code. This was not the first time Abdel Hadi had faced legal and security persecution for his opinions. In a prior case, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had pardoned him on May 31st, 2022, after he had been sentenced to four years in prison in case number 558 of 2021, by Nasr City Second State Security Court, less than a year before he was summoned for interrogation in the new case.


  • Security Targeting of Social Media Content Creators for Various Reasons

On February 13th, 2024, Mohamed Ali Ahmed was arrested from his home in Kafr Saqr, Sharqia Governorate, due to Facebook posts mocking President El-Sisi. He was taken to one of the National Security facilities and held until he was presented to the State Security Prosecution on February 18th, 2024. The prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days pending investigation in case number 717 of 2024, of the Supreme State Security Court. Mohamed Ali Ahmed is 40 years old and works as an employee at the Businessmen Association in Kafr Saqr.


Similarly, on February 16th, 2024, Mohamed Atef Eid Farhat was arrested from his home and taken to a National Security facility, where he was held for five days before being presented to the State Security Prosecution on February 21st. The prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days in the same case (717 of 2024, Supreme State Security Court) due to social media posts supporting Palestine and calling for the regime’s departure. Mohamed Atef is a 26-year-old electrician.


In both cases, the prosecution brought charges that included joining a terrorist group, spreading false news and misusing social media.[19]


In another incident, TikToker Mariam Ayman, known as Suzy the Jordanian (Suzy Al-Ordonia), was arrested on February 15th for posting a video arguing with her father. Investigators ordered her detention for four days pending charges of violating personal privacy, insulting her father on live stream, and exploiting her disabled sister for profit and views. Mariam Ayman is an 18-year-old student from El Matariyyah, Cairo, and was released on February 18th after paying a 5,000 EGP fine.[20]



Fourth: Academic Freedom and Student Rights

Egyptian universities and authorities continue to target faculty members and students, aiming to restrict and nationalize the space available for expression within universities. AFTE recorded ongoing security and judicial harassment of students and professors this quarter, primarily due to their political views and activities within the university. Additionally, faculty and students are being penalized for matters unrelated to the university, such as punishing a professor for her spouse’s political activities. Furthermore, the detention of Ahmed Al-Tohamy, a political science professor at the Faculty of Economic Studies and Political Science at Alexandria University, is being renewed in case number 649 of 2020, Supreme State Security Court. The Criminal Court (First Terrorism Circuit) renewed Al-Tohamy’s detention for 45 days on April 6th, 2024[21]. This continued detention violates Egyptian law, which limits pre-trial detention to two years. These violations and persecutions have impacted the university’s role in producing educated and elite individuals.


  • Academic Freedom: Administrative Court Rejects Higher Education Ministry’s Appeal Against Manar El Tantawy’s Professorship

Manar El Tantawy, an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Higher Technological Institute in the 10th of Ramadan, 6th of October branch, has faced numerous violations from the institute’s administration and the Ministry of Higher Education since 2021. These violations included denying her the professorship despite meeting the requirements and preventing her from returning to her position as head of the Mechanical Engineering Department.


Despite undergoing evaluation by a committee from the Supreme Council of Universities in December 2019 and being granted the professorship in February 2020, the Ministry of Higher Education and the Higher Technological Institute have been reluctant to endorse this decision. The ministry and institute have continued to conceal the endorsement decision without providing reasons.


Moreover, the Ministry of Higher Education filed an appeal, number 14728 of 1969, in November 2023 against the ruling by the Supreme Council of Universities granting El Tantawy her professorship. On January 27th, 2024, the Seventh Circuit Administrative Court rejected the ministry’s appeal against Dr. Manar El Tantawy, affirming the decision in her favor and dismissing the security objections to her promotion. Nonetheless, the ministry and institute continue to refuse to recognize El Tantawy’s professorship and the associated privileges, likely due to her being the wife of a former political prisoner.[22]


  • Student Rights: Ongoing Judicial and Security Harassment Against Moaz El-Sharkawy

Judicial and security violations against former student leader Moaz El-Sharkawy persist. In January 2024, El-Sharkawy was referred to a new case, number 13330 of 2023, El Marg Criminal Court. The prosecution charged him with joining a terrorist group, financing terrorism, and using WhatsApp to commit a terrorist crime. The charges against El-Sharkawy could result in a life sentence. He was arrested on May 11th, 2023, and forcibly disappeared for over three weeks before appearing at the State Security Prosecution accused in case number 540 of 2023 of the Supreme State Security Court, where the prosecution has leveled similar terrorism-related charges against him.[23]


Conclusion and Recommendations


AFTE condemns the ongoing repression by Egyptian authorities against citizens’ right to free and safe expression and calls on the authorities to:


  • Immediately release those detained in solidarity with the Palestinian cause and cease the repression of solidarity against the genocide of Palestinians.
  • The Egyptian authorities should overturn the sentences against Ahmed El Tantawy and members of his campaign.
  • The State Security Prosecution should release supporters of the former presidential candidate Ahmed El Tantawy and halt their persecution.
  • The Security apparatuses should cease targeting online content creators and publishers.


[1] Methodology of Monitoring and Documentation in AFTE,

[2] 15,000 child martyrs in Gaza and 145 journalists, Al, 16 May 2024, last accessed 16 May 2024:

[3] Facebook account of the House of Trade Union and Labour Services, 5 March 2024, last accessed: 17 April 2024:

[4] Khaled El Balshy’s -Head of Journalists Syndicate- page, Journalists Syndicate: Journalists released: Manal Agrama, Hala Fahmy and Safaa Al- Korbigi…Thanks to everyone who helped and made an effort.

[5] AFTE's Legal Assistance Unit.. 36689-afteegypt.html

[6] Mada Masr, Rana Mamdouh's testimony..Mada Masr journalist recounts 10 hours of detention, disappearance and interrogation. Published: 11 March 2024. Last visited: 17 April 2024..

[7] Official page of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, 5 January 2024, Transfer of Zat Masr for investigation..

[8] Testimony to AFTE

[9] Cairo 24, Zat Masr officials summoned for investigation for spreading false news,

[10] Sada El-Balad, Abdelwakeel AbulQasem writes: assaulting a colleague at Minya University..Urgent request from journalists to the Minister of Higher Education, published on: 1 January 2024. Last Accessed: 17 April 2024..

[11] Egypt Telegraph, Mariam El Sawy, after assault on Egypt Telegraph journalist: What does the penal code say? Published on: 22 February 2024... Last visited: 17 April 2024...

[12] Mada Masr, Al Kotob Khan: Banned from participating without giving reasons, published on: 24 January 2024, last visited: 14 March 2024.. 1750226969210331414

[13] Tanweer Publishing House page, Statement of ban from participating in the exhibition. Published on: 22 January 2024. Last visited: on 14 March 2024. 865234338949737

[14] AFTE calls for the immediate release of publisher Khaled Lotfy and considers his military trial a severe blow to creative freedom, Published on: 29 December 2013, Last visited: 21 February 2023..

[15] Al Masry Al Youm, Sara Reda, Learn how to register for the Cairo International Book Fair 2024 Published on: 23 October 2023. Last visited: on 25 March 2024.. 3018237

[16] "Sentencing of Kirollos Nashed", Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Published on: 6 February 2024. Last accessed on: 15 April 2024.

[17] Mostafa Dorgham, "6 months imprisonment for composer Ahmed Hegazy after reading the Quran to the tunes of the Oud," Cairo 24. Published on: 28 January 2024, Last accessed on: 15 April 2024.

[18] Darb, for opinion articles... Suspended sentence of one year in prison for engineer Yahya Hussein Abdelhady, published on: January 2024. Last accessed: April 2024.

[19]  "For publishing online about the president, one mocking him, and the other calling for his departure: State Security Prosecution detains two citizens in case 717 of 2024", Egyptian Front, Published on: 29 February 2024, Last accessed on: 15 April 2024.

[20] Ahmed El-Gohary, "The imprisonment of Blogger "Suzy Al Ordonia". Cairo 24. Published on: 16 February 2024. Last accessed on: 15 April 2024.

[21] Legal Assistance Unit, AFTE

[22] Legal Assistance Unit, AFTE. Phone conversation with Manar El Tantawy on the 15th of April 2024.

[23] "Referral of student leader Moaz al-Sharqawi and others for a new trial before the Terrorism Circuit," Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 22 January 2024. Last accessed: 15 April 2024.

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