Egypt - RSF condemns arrest of yet another journalist in Egypt

As six journalists sentenced to life imprisonment await their appeal hearing tomorrow, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrest of yet another journalist critical of the government on charges of publishing false information and belonging to a banned organization (the Muslim Brotherhood).

Ismail Alexandrani, a freelance investigative reporter and researcher specializing in jihadi movements in the Sinai Peninsula, was arrested at Hurghada airport on his return from Berlin on 29 November. After being interrogated by national security prosecutors yesterday, he was placed in provisional detention for 15 days.

Ismail Alexandrani’s arrest is yet further evidence of the government’s determination to persecute dissident journalists,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

Continually arresting and convicting journalists on the same trumped-up charges encourages media self-censorship. We urge the authorities to free all unjustly detained journalists and drop the charges against them.

The interrogation of Alexandrani, who writes for Le Monde Diplomatique, the Lebanese daily As Safir and other foreign media, is due to continue tomorrow.

Reporters are no longer able to work normally because of the tension in the Sinai Peninsula resulting from jihadi attacks on the security forces. Journalists must limit themselves to reporting the official version of shootings and bombings (including the number of casualties) or risk a heavy fine under the anti-terrorism law adopted in August.

The six journalists whose appeal will be heard tomorrow were convicted in April along with leaders of the banned Muslim Brotherhood in the case known as the “Rabaa operations room.” They were accused of publishing false news, inciting chaos and violence and being part of an “operations room” that organized attacks on the government during the August 2013 demonstrations in Cairo’s Rabaa Adawiya Square in support of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

The Morsi government violated freedom of information but the situation is much worse since its removal and replacement by a government led by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Egypt is now one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists with at least 20 currently detained.