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Al Jazeera journalist arrested at Cairo airport

August 4, 2021 at 12:46 pm

Rabie El-Sheikh, 4 August 2021 [haythamabokhal1/Twitter]

An Al Jazeera journalist has been arrested at Cairo airport after flying from Doha to visit his family.

Rabie El-Sheikh, a producer for Al Jazeera’s Mubasher channel, was transferred to the Egyptian National Security Agency and questioned for several hours after being arrested on Sunday.

Al-Shaykh was detained on an order from the State Security Prosecution and charged with spreading “fake news”, after a leaked recording was circulated in which he asks an Egyptian columnist to speak about the Renaissance Dam crisis, reports MEE.

The Renaissance Dam is a sensitive issue in Egypt and citizens have called on President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to stand down for mishandling the negotiations, which have been ongoing for ten years.

Al-Shaykh’s arrest was particularly concerning given that the day before Al Jazeera broadcast live from Egypt for the first time in eight years.

READ: Egypt backs Tunisia’s exceptional measures, says FM

Al Jazeera closed its offices in Egypt in June 2014 as Cairo cracked down on media outlets after the 2013 coup, with a particular focus on the Qatari based organisation.

The station’s last broadcast was in December 2013 after three of their reporters were arrested at Cairo’s Marriott Hotel and tried on bogus terror related charges.

Al Jazeera had its licence revoked and its offices raided.

When they launched the blockade on Qatar, Egypt and its allies Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain demanded that Al Jazeera shut its offices.

One of Al Jazeera’s journalists, Mahmoud Hussein, was arrested in 2016 and held in pretrial detention for over four years before being released in February this year.

For several years Egypt has been named as among the world’s top jailers of journalists.

Relations between Egypt and Qatar have improved this year after the Gulf states and Cairo took steps to reconcile four years after the blockade.

This, and the fact that Al Jazeera were able to broadcast from Egypt over the weekend, were taken to be signs that Cairo was changing its attitude towards the TV station, which encouraged Al-Shaykh to return home.