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9 journalists arrested since start of Egypt covid pandemic

A picture taken during a guided tour organised by Egypt's State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian police officer entering the Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
An Egyptian police officer enters the Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo on 11 February 2020 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

Since the first official coronavirus case was announced in Egypt, at least nine journalists have been imprisoned, according to the Freedom Twitter account for political prisoners.

The reporters face fabricated charges and two were added to new cases despite already being in pretrial detention for two years.

Among the journalists is Mohamed Mounir who was arrested on 15 June and placed in pretrial detention for allegedly spreading false news, joining a terror group and misusing social media.

His arrest came after he appeared on Al Jazeera where he spoke in support of journalists working for the magazine Rose Al-Youssef which published an article criticising bishops for continuing to lead prayers despite instructions to stop amid virus preventative measures.

Also on the list is Haisam Hasan Mahgoub, a journalist at the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm who was charged with joining and financing a terror group and spreading fake news.

The lengths Egyptian authorities have gone to to control the covid narrative became clear early on in the pandemic when scientists at the University of Toronto published a report indicating that there could be between 6,270 and 45,070 coronavirus cases in Egypt when official figures said there were just three.

READ: Egypt arrests sister of political detainee Alaa Abdelfattah

The Guardian’s correspondent, who reported on the findings, was deported from the country and accused of spreading panic, whilst the health ministry said the report was “a complete disgrace to health.”

Several doctors have also been arrested after complaining about how the government have handled the crisis, for example, questioning the lack of PPE available.

In March Dr Aalaa Shaaban Hamida was reported to national state security by her boss after a nurse working with her used her phone to inform the health ministry about a covid case in the hospital where they work.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner has said critical voices should not be sanctioned punitively.

“The Egyptian authorities [should] address disinformation by providing clear, reliable and fact-based information and seek to engage the population, and empower civil society to fight the common threat of the pandemic.”

Since Sisi’s government consolidated power after the 2013 coup, media freedom in the country has deteriorated.

Egypt is one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists and is currently 163 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

READ: Human rights defender forcibly disappeared for 7 days

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