Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir’s arrest in Cairo on 14 June, after an appearance on the Qatari TV channel Al Jazeera’s evening news programme, and calls for his immediate release.
It was Monir’s family who reported on Facebook that the police had arrested him at his home and taken him to an unknown destination. The previous day, Monir had posted video on Facebook that he said came from a CCTV camera and showed police breaking into his home in order to search it.
The search came just hours his appearance on Al Jazeera to discuss a controversy involving the Egyptian state-owned weekly news magazine Rose Al-Youssef and Egypt’s Coptic Church.
President Al-Sisi’s government loathes Al Jazeera because its owner, the Qatari state, supports the Muslim Brotherhood, which is regarded as a terrorist organization in Egypt. Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau was closed down three years ago and an Al Jazeera journalist, Mahmoud Hussein, has been detained since December 2016 for “membership of a terrorist group.”
Aside from appearing on a TV channel that is his government’s bugbear, Monir discussed the highly sensitive controversy about Rose Al-Youssef’s 13 June cover, which showed a photo of central Cairo’s Coptic bishop alongside a photo of Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie (who is serving an 85-year jail term), together with the headline “Holy ignorance.”
The Coptic Church voiced outrage about the cover, the National Press Authority demanded its withdrawal and an apology from Rose Al-Youssef, and the weekly’s editor, Hany Abdullah, is now the subject of a judicial investigation.
“Mohamed Monir’s arrest and the circumstances surrounding it constitute multiple violations of the right to inform,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “A journalist was taken from his home without a warrant just hours after an appearance on a TV channel that is banned in his country to discuss a controversy involving a media outlet. This latest arrest is symptomatic of the difficulties for Egypt’s journalists. Mohamed Monir must be released at once.”
RSF has just learned that sports journalist Awni Nafie was also arrested last month for “membership of a terrorist group,” No other detail is available. The arrests of Munir and Nafie bring the number of journalists detained in Egypt since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to five.
The other most recent arrest was that of Shimaa Samy, who managed to report on Facebook on 20 May that the police had come to her home to arrest her. She was formally placed in provisional detention on 25 May on the same charge of “membership of a terrorist group.”
Egypt is ranked 166th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.