Egypt arrested a veteran journalist who has been openly critical of the government after he appeared on Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network.
Mohamed Monir, 65, was arrested by plain-clothes police officers early on Monday, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Tuesday.
“Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Mohamed Monir and drop these baseless charges,” it said. “Monir is already in failing health, and to detain him pending trial during a pandemic is exceptionally cruel.”
Monir has been remanded in custody for 15 days on charges of joining a “terrorist organisation”, spreading false news and misusing social media.
His arrest comes as Egypt steps up a crackdown on the press that it has been waging since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became president in 2014, a year after he led the army’s overthrow of his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.
The government regards Monir as a mouthpiece for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, now blacklisted as a terrorist organisation.
Police raided Monir’s apartment on Saturday. He was not home at the time, but he obtained footage of the raid from a camera in his building that he shared online.
In a defiant video message he posted on Facebook, Monir vowed the authorities’ attempt to arrest him would not stop him from speaking out.
In a family statement posted on Monir’s Facebook page, his daughter Sara said: “He was merely exercising his freedom of speech, and his words did not contain any incitement against the nation.”
In May, the CPJ documented the arrests of at least four Egyptian journalists, including Sameh Haneen, a Coptic Christian who also faces charges of joining a terrorist organisation.
The interior ministry later published video footage of an alleged confession by Haneen, in which he claimed he had been paid thousands of dollars for producing videos critical of the government for Al Jazeera at the request of members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mahmoud Hussein is an Al Jazeera journalist held in Egypt for more than three years.
An Egyptian national, he was arrested shortly after his arrival in Egypt on December 20, 2016, while on a personal visit. He has not been officially charged.
In May 2019, an Egyptian court rejected an order by the state prosecutor to release him. Authorities opened a new investigation against him with unspecified charges and returned him to prison.
Egypt and its Gulf allies – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have boycotted Qatar since June 2017, accusing it of “supporting terrorists” and interfering in its neighbour’s affairs, accusations Doha denies.
Egypt ranks as the third-worst jailer of journalists behind China and Turkey, according to the CPJ.