Loss of contact with detained journalist
Solafa Magdy, Hossam el-Sayed and Mohamed Salah are freelance journalists working for different media outlets. Solafa and Hossam are married and have a seven-year-old son. Amnesty International believes that their detention is solely based on their writings and social media activism defending prisoners of conscience and victims of human rights violations, including their friend Esraa Abdelfattah, a journalist and activist, who is also in detention.
Solafa Magdy and Mohamed Salah are facing trumped-up charges of “joining a terrorist group” and “spreading false news”, while Hossam el-Sayed is accused of “membership in a terrorist group” as part of case 488 of 2019, which relates to the March 2019 anti-government protests. They have been detained since 26 November 2019. Since 15 March 2020, the Egyptian ministry of justice suspended all hearings before courts as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, detainees, including Solafa, Mohamed and Hossam, are not being transferred to court sessions or detention renewal hearings.
Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power, the authorities have arbitrarily blocked hundreds of websites news websites, raided and/or closed the offices of at least nine media outlets and arbitrarily detained scores of journalists. The organization is aware of at least 37 journalists detained at the time of writing solely for carrying-out their legitimate work or for expressing opinions on their personal social media platforms. Among them, at least 20 journalists are detained solely in connection to their work, including conducting investigations, publishing stories or covering anti-government protests.
The arrest of Solafa, Hossam and Mohamed come in the context of the post-September 2019 protest crackdown, the largest on dissenting voices since 2014, and two days after the raid of independent media website Mada Masr.
On 20 and 21 September 2019, scattered protests broke across Egyptian cities, calling on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to resign. The protests have been triggered by social media videos of Mohamed Ali, a former army contractor, who has accused army leaders and the president of wasting public money on building luxury properties. Amnesty International has documented how Egyptian security forces carried-out sweeping arrests of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights lawyers, activists and political figures in a bid to silence critics and deter further protests.
According to Egyptian human rights lawyers, the authorities have arrested at least 4,000 individuals in relation to their perceived participation or support of the protests. The authorities ordered the pre-trial detention of at least 3,715 people pending investigations on “terrorism”-related charges in the largest single protests-related criminal investigation in Egypt’s history.