Three journalists arrested in a café in Cairo have been charged with disseminating false news and joining a banned group.
Solafa Magdi, her husband Hossam Al-Sayyad and Mohamed Salah, were friends of the detained activist Israa Abdelfattah, who is currently in pre-trial detention.
Co-founder of the 6 April movement, Israa was kidnapped from a street in Cairo in October and strangled in custody until she gave up the password to her phone.
Authorities in the Dokki neighbourhood where her three friends were arrested denied all knowledge of what happened to them. Their families filed a complaint with the public prosecutor holding the interior minister responsible for their safety and demanding it reveal details of their whereabouts.
Their arrest came just 48 hours after a raid on Egypt’s last independent media outlet Mada Masr ignited a wave of international condemnation over the state of Egypt’s press.
On Tuesday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Egypt to respect the freedom of the press and respect the need for a “robust civil society”.
Germany said the raid reflected a “very worrying deterioration of press freedom in Egypt” and reiterated that Germany had repeatedly expressed concern on press freedom in Egypt including at the recent UN review.
Security officers had already arrested a Mada Masr Editor Shady Zalat in the early hours of Saturday morning from his home, who has now been released.
After speaking to multiple sources, on 20 November Mada Masr published an article detailing how President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s son had been assigned a long-term position in Moscow due to his failure to handle the media and the storm over Egyptian whistleblower Mohamed Ali.
The European Union has said that media freedoms in Egypt are declining and that local authorities should allow “journalists to work without fear”.
Egypt is currently ranked 163 in the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index and is now one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists.