Egypt authorities release Al Jazeera journalists held in pretrial detention for four years News
Pexels / Pixabay
Egypt authorities release Al Jazeera journalists held in pretrial detention for four years

Egyptian authorities released two Al Jazeera journalists, Rabie Al-Sheikh and Bahaa Eldin Ibrahim, held in pre-trial detention for four years, the Qatar-based news outlet announced on Friday. The Egyptian journalists were both arrested on charges of spreading false information.

Ibrahim was arrested at Borg El Arab Airport in Alexandria on February 22, 2020. Al Jazeera called for his release in 2023, claiming that he was subjected to “illegal violations” while in detention, such as “enforced disappearance, torture, and solitary confinement, while being blindfolded and handcuffed.” Similarly, The news network urged authorities to release Al-Sheikh, who was arrested in August 2021 in Cairo, stating that “[h]is detention exceeds the pretrial period stipulated by Egyptian law”.

A court in Egypt previously extended the detention of Ibrahim along with another journalist, Hisham Abdelaziz, in February 2023. Abdelaziz was released from prison in May 2023 after being detained in 2019 on “membership of a terrorist group” and “spreading false information” charges.

The Middle East and North Africa Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ MENA) welcomed the release of the two journalists and urged Egyptian authorities to release all detained journalists and “to cease targeting journalists” from the Egyptian independent news network Mada Masr.

The targeting and arbitrary detention of journalists in Egypt has increased severely since President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi came to power in 2014. Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein was arrested in 2016 over accusations of attempting to overthrow the country’s government and being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and was subsequently released in 2021 after being held in pretrial detention. Ahmed Taha, another Al Jazeera journalist, was sentenced in absentia in 2022 to 15 years in prison on charges of spreading misinformation. Al Jazeera condemned the decision, stating:

Al Jazeera Media Network condemns this irrational verdict which it considers unjustified and which it believes is taken as part of an ongoing campaign launched by the Egyptian authorities against Al Jazeera and its journalists. Moreover, this verdict is an attempt to criminalise the profession of journalism that is protected by international laws put in place to facilitate the difficult and oftentimes dangerous work of journalists to convey news impartially and professionally.

Consequently, calls for the release of arbitrarily detained journalists and activists in Egypt from human rights organizations have multiplied. Amnesty International denounced the crackdown on journalists and media in a 2020 report, which it said “not only violates journalists’ right to freedom of expression, but also the general public’s access to independent information.” The International Federation of Journalists urged authorities to release all imprisoned journalists 2022, in a call from human rights organizations against the arbitrary detention of journalists in the country.