Groups Of Friends On The Safety Of Journalists Issue A Joint Statement On Press Freedom

Human rights groups from the region and around the world call on authorities in Egypt to immediately release journalists Hisham Fouad and Hossam Moanis, who have been held without trial since June 25, 2019.

The undersigned human rights organizations condemn the continued detention of Egyptian journalists Hisham Fouad and Hossam Moanis, who have been held without trial since 25 June, 2019, and call on Egyptian authorities to release them immediately.

Fouad, 52, a labor activist and journalist with the Russian “Sputnik” news agency in Cairo, and Moanis, 38, a journalist for “Al Karama” newspaper and a political activist, were arrested by Egyptian police in their homes at dawn on June 25, 2019, terrorizing their families. They were alleged to be part of a political group known as the Coalition of Hope.

According to Egyptian and international human rights organizations, Fouad, Moanis and others face baseless accusations. This is a common practice under President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who has regularly targeted human rights defenders, opponents, and critical journalists of various affiliations. Chief among these accusations are participating in a terrorist group and spreading false news on social media with the aim of inciting sedition and overthrowing the regime.

Their detention has been renewed at least 25 times without providing any serious evidence of these accusations. In the course of renewing these charges over the past two years, the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence to even refer the accused to trial.

On June 7, the special court considering the renewal decided to continue Fouad and Moanis’ detention and that of others in the Coalition of Hope case for another 45 days, exceeding the maximum period of pretrial detention stipulated in Article 143 of the Egyptian Criminal Code, which sets it at two years.

The undersigned human rights organizations share the fears of the families and friends of Fouad and Moanis that Egyptian authorities might resort to charging the two journalists in a new case, opening the door to a fresh pretrial detention period of two years. This cruel and illegal practice has been used excessively in recent years to further punish people who share or express dissenting opinions.

Fouad and Moanis have spent two years in pretrial detention in harsh and squalid conditions in the infamous Tora prison. The severity increased due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, which in July 2020 killed journalist Mohamed Mounir during his pretrial detention period there.

The two also suffer complications from other diseases, exacerbated by the lack of medical care and treatment, exercise, exposure to the sun and the outside air. They were denied the right to communicate with their families and lawyers. Fouad’s request to pursue higher studies in English translation during his imprisonment was also denied.

International human rights groups have expressed continuing concern about deteriorating conditions of the press and journalists in Egypt during the last eight years. Authorities have tightly controlled the media, jailed scores of journalists without trial, blocked hundreds of local and international news and human rights sites, and passed media legislation that violates international standards for freedom of expression.

As a result, Egypt is consistently ranked among the top three countries globally in terms of the number of journalists imprisoned for doing their job by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) The number of reporters jailed for doing their job and publishing news on social media, or for peacefully opposing the government is estimated at about 27, according to CPJ. In 2020, Egypt ranked 166 out of a total of 180 countries on the Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index. It was ranked 127 out of a total of 178 on this index in 2010, immediately prior to the 2011 Egyptian revolution against President Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic rule.

The time is now for Egypt to reverse this trend. We urge Egyptian authorities to immediately release Hisham Fouad and Hossam Moanis and stop all attacks on independent media outlets and journalists in the country.

Egypt: Rights groups call for the release of journalists detained for two years without trial
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