Reporters Without Borders has called on the Egyptian authorities to release Tawfik Ghanem, the former bureau chief of the Anadolu Agency office in Cairo, noting that he had begun his third year in detention without being brought to trial.
The organisation stated on its website, signed by the head of its Middle East desk, Jonathan Dagher, that imprisonment without trial is a common practice in Egypt, where 12 of the 20 imprisoned journalists are being held in pre-trial detention.
The statement noted that Egyptian police: “Arrested [Ghanem] at his home on 21 May, 2021, and was held incommunicado for five days before being brought before a prosecutor and placed in provisional detention for allegedly belonging to a ‘banned organisation’ and spreading ‘false information,’” noting that these charges are “often used to detain journalists in Egypt.”
Ghanem has been in pre-trial detention for more than two years, as his provisional detention has been renewed every 15 to 45 days since 26 May, 2021.
Reporters Without Borders has reported that the Egyptian code of criminal procedure has a two-year limit on pre-trial detention, regardless of the charges. However, Ghanem is still being detained and deprived of medical care. He is 69 years old and suffers from serious health problems, including being diabetic.
The statement confirmed that the authorities do not allow Ghanem to receive the treatment for diabetes he requires at Abu Zaabal prison, except when he is visited by his children every two weeks. The prison administration also ignores his other chronic illnesses, including bone pain.
According to the statement, in 2021, a prison doctor declared that Ghanem should be sent to hospital for further examination for tumours. The authorities promised to do this but never fulfilled their promise.
“The Egyptian authorities must stop using provisional detention as a punitive tool against journalists. Tawfik Ghanem is a courageous and reputable media professional who should not have to spend his retirement in prison,” asserted Jonathan Dagher.
“We denounce this flagrant injustice and call on the authorities to drop the charges against him and free him immediately so that he can receive appropriate medical care as soon as possible,” he added.
Reporters Without Borders wrote to the United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs on freedom of expression, torture, the independence of judges and the right to health and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention two months after his arrest in July 2021 to ask them to take all the necessary steps with the Egyptian authorities to obtain Ghanem’s immediate and unconditional release.