Egyptian content creators arrested over comic prison visit video
Detainees face charges such as ‘publishing false news and utilising social media accounts to commit acts of terrorism’, says lawyer.
Five social media content creators were arrested in Egypt after publishing a widely viewed spoof sketch about a visit to an Egyptian jail.
The video clip, titled The Visit, shows a woman visiting her fiance in prison. The two engage in banter with several other characters who also appear at the detention centre, including a prison guard.
The three-minute video was published on January 13 and has been viewed more than seven million times on Facebook.
Five people who appeared in the video were arrested by National Security Agency representatives last week before being transferred to the prosecution and ordered detained for 15 days pending investigation, said Mokhtar Mounir, a lawyer for two of those arrested, on Wednesday.
They include Mohamed Hossam, who has more than one million followers on Facebook, and Basma Hegazy, who has more than 200,000 followers on TikTok.
The five face charges such as “joining a terrorist group, funding terrorism, publishing false news and utilising social media accounts to commit acts of terrorism”, said Mounir.
He said they were detained over the video but he did not know what aspects of it triggered their arrest.
The charges they face are commonly used against people deemed to be undermining the state or its security.
Other cases have been brought against content creators and social media influencers in Egypt in recent years, including over videos that touch on sensitive subjects.
Authorities arrested a group of TikTok influencers last April after they published a parody song about price increases. The influencers were later released, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent rights group.
Also last year, an Egyptian court sentenced TikTock influencer Haneen Hossam to three years in prison after she was convicted of “human trafficking” in a retrial.
The charge was brought against her over a video she had posted telling her 1.3 million followers on Instagram that girls over the age of 18 can make money by working with her on social media.
Rights group Amnesty International has condemned the sentencing of Egypt’s TikTok influencers.