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Egypt arrests journalist Shaima Sami

Egyptian journalist Shaima Sami was arrested by Egyptian forces, 21 May 2020
Egyptian journalist Shaima Sami was arrested by Egyptian forces, 21 May 2020 [Twitter]

Egyptian security forces have arrested a journalist and former researcher for the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

Shaima Sami wrote on Facebook that she was being arrested from her home in Alexandria, just minutes before her personal account was closed.

Security forces told her family they were taking her to the Alexandria Security Directorate. Shaima’s family and the UNHCR have demanded her release.

Critics say Egypt is using the COVID-19 pandemic to increase restrictions on the press. In March, authorities revoked the licence of the Guardian’s Egypt correspondent and have imprisoned a number of reporters who called for the release of prisoners for fear of a coronavirus outbreak in the overcrowded cells.

Shaima’s arrest comes several days after security forces detained journalist Sameh Hanin for 15 days on the same case as Al-Masry Al-Youm reporter Haisam Hasan Mahgoub and the journalist and photographer Moatez Abdel Wahab, both of whom were detained recently.

Haitham had written a number of articles about the coronavirus pandemic.

READ: Rights group: 2 detainees died of COVID-19 in Egypt

On Sunday, Lina Attalah, editor-in chief of Egypt’s last independent media outlet Mada Masr, became the fifth journalist to be arrested in ten days when she was detained outside Tora Prison where she was interviewing the mother of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is on hunger strike in protest over a ban on family visits.

Lina was released on bail hours after her arrest.

The detentions are a wider campaign engineered by the Egyptian government to stifle free speech. On 12 May, the Egyptian Supreme Council for Media Regulation banned journalists and contributors from using a pseudonym without written approval from the state.

On 21 April, the supreme council fined Al-Masry Al-Youm $16,000 for articles it published on the Sinai Peninsula where the government is waging a protracted, unsuccessful war on terror and has committed war crimes.

The articles, which suggested Sinai should be isolated from the rest of Egypt, were written under the pseudonym Newton by the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Salah Diab, who was banned from the media for three months.

READ: Failed policies are more dangerous than coronavirus

In September 2019, the council published a list of press regulations, including a ban on publishing news deemed harmful to the country’s public and religious interests.

Reporters Without Borders reports that there are at least 29 journalists in Egyptian prisons and more than 500 websites have been blocked.

Egypt ranks 166 out of 180 countries in terms of press freedoms.

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