CPJ Says Imprisonment of Journalists in Egypt at “All-Time High”

There are at least sixteen journalists imprisoned in Egypt in relation to their reporting, according to a special report released Thursday by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Another two, the report says, have been released pending investigation. CPJ says this is the highest number recorded by the group in the past twenty-five years, when it began documenting press freedom in Egypt. The Prosecutor General and Minister of Transitional Justice, however, told CPJ that there are no journalists detained in Egypt for doing their jobs.

Of the eighteen journalists, Mohamed Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, has been detained the longest, and has yet to be formally charged. Abu Zeid was arrested on August 14, 2013, while covering the dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Raba’a al-Adaweya Square. The CPJ report says that, according to media reports, Abou Zeid is under investigation for “weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder.”

At least five of the journalists were arrested on the job, while three were arrested in their homes. One journalist, Mosad al-Barbary, was arrested in Beirut, near the Rafik Hariri airport, and was extradited based on a bilateral extradition treaty between Egypt and Lebanon.

Of the eighteen journalists, at least eleven of them have already been sentenced. The sentences range from 15 months to life in prison. In Egypt, a life sentence is the equivalent of twenty-five years in prison. The charges range from belonging to an illegal group, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, participating in illegal protests, inciting violence, using arms against the police, and publishing false news, among others. The majority of the journalists work for outlets that have been critical of the Egyptian government, with many of them reporting for media outlets known to support the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Misr 25 and the Turkey-based Misr al-Aan. The vast majority of the journalists are also accused of belonging to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Six of the journalists, working for Rassd, Amgad TV, Misr 25, and the Freedom and Justice Gate, were sentenced to life in prison in a mass trial alongside forty-five others. Sentenced on April 11, 2015, the journalists were convicted in the trial known in the media as the Raba’a Operations Room, on charges of “spreading chaos” and “forming an operations room” during the dispersal of the Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in. 

“The arrests of journalists in Egypt are often violent and involve beatings, abuse, and raids of their homes and confiscation of their property,” the CPJ report adds. Journalists are subjected to torture, disappear for prolonged periods, their whereabouts unknown to their families, and their court hearings can take place without notifying the journalists or their lawyers, or without the journalists being permitted to attend.

The majority of the journalists who have been arrested, charged, and sentenced, work for Internet outlets. “The Internet, which could be considered the only space left for free speech and independent reporting in Egypt, is becoming increasingly dangerous,” the report said. The report also highlighted a draft cybercrime bill, which has been approved by the cabinet, but has yet to be approved by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. According to CPJ, the draft bill “allows law enforcement agencies to block websites and pursue heavy prison sentences against Internet users for vaguely defined crimes such as “harming social peace” and “threatening national unity.” This, CPJ says, could have “dire” implications for blogger and journalists.

See below for an overview of what the eighteen journalists have been charged with, and the status of their cases, according to the CPJ report:


Place of Arrest

Date of Arrest




1. Mahmoud Abu Zeid (Shawkan)

Covering Raba’a dispersal

August 14, 2013

Has not been officially charged. He is being investigated for weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder

Pre-trial detention

2. Samhi Mustafa

Home of Brotherhood leader’s son

August 25, 2013

Spreading chaos; Forming an Operations Room during the Raba’a dispersal

Life in prison


3. Abdullah Al Fakharany

Home of Brotherhood leader’s son

August 25, 2013

Spreading chaos; Forming an Operations Room during the Raba’a dispersal

Life in prison


4. Mohamed Al-Adly

Home of Brotherhood leader’s son

August 25, 2013

Spreading chaos; Forming an Operations Room during the Raba’a dispersal

Life in prison

Amgad TV

5. Saeed Abuhaj

At day job

November 4, 2013

Inciting violence, protests; Using arms against police


Media Center

6. Hany Salah el-Deen


November 28, 2013

Spreading chaos; Forming an Operations Room during the Raba’a dispersal

Life in prison

Misr 25

7. Mohamed Ali Salah

Covering Azhar protest

December 27, 2013

Illegal protests; Inciting violence

Five years, reduced to three on appeal

Al Shaab

al Jadeed

8. Ahmed Fouad

Covering Brotherhood protest

January 25, 2014

Joining a group that aims to disrupt the law; Blocking roads;

Trial postponed to October


      Weapons possession; Illegal protests

9. Mosad al-Barbary


April 2, 2014

Publishing false news in support of Raba’a Operations Room; Spreading chaos, Forming an Operations Room during Raba’a dispersal

Life in prison

Misr 25

Ahrar 25

10. Omar Abdel Maksoud

Covering a baby shower of a woman who gave birth in custody

April 15, 2014

Setting fire to Sisi campaign cars; Belonging to Brotherhood

Life in prison in absentia despite being detained

Masr al-Arabia

      Illegal protests

Two years, overturned on appeal

      Working for Al Jazeera

No trial date set yet

11. Abdel Rahman Shaheen

On the street in Suez City

April 9, 2014

Inciting and committing violence during protests

Three years & 10,000EGP fine

Freedom and Justice Gate

12. Emad Sayed Abu Zeid

His home

September 1, 2014

Publishing false news;Joining Brotherhood

Three years

Suef Online

Al-Ahram Gate

13. Mohamed Ali Hassan

His home

December 11, 2014

Spreading false news; Inciting protests; Funding illegal protests; Belonging to illegal group

Pre-trial detention

Misr al-Aan

Al Nahar

14. Hassan al-Kabbani

His home

January 22, 2015

Espionage; Damaging Egypt’s standing abroad; Joining an illegal group; Spreading false news to disturb public peace

Pre-trial detention


Freedom and Justice Gate

      Spreading chaos; Forming an Operations Room during the Raba’a dispersal

Life in prison

15. Tarek Mahrous

At a cafe

January 31, 2015

Participating and photographing an illegal protest

Released pending investigation

Misr al-Aan

16. Ahmed al-Tanobi

Cairo metro station

January 31, 2015

Incitement against the government; Participating in illegal protest; Belonging to an illegal group

Released on bail

Arab Media Freedom Monitor

17. Abdelrahman Abdelsalam Yaqot

Outside Fauzi Maath police station pursuing a lead

March 21, 2015

Possessing explosives; Participating in illegal protests; Belonging to an illegal group

No trial date set yet


18, Youssef Shaaban

At an appeal hearing

May 11, 2015

Assaulting police officers; Attempting to storm a police station

15 months

Al Bedaiah

Image: Photo: Photojournalist Mahmoud Abouzeid (Shakwan) has been detained since August 2013 without charge (Lobna Tarek/Freedom for Shakwan Facebook page)