PEN International welcomes the Egyptian authorities’ decision to release prominent Egyptian journalist Khaled Dawoud and photojournalists Solafa Magdy and Hossam Sayyad. The three journalists were arrested in 2019 following an unprecedented crackdown campaign on free speech. PEN urges the Egyptian government to drop all charges against them and to end the use of terrorism laws to silence critics. PEN also renews its calls to release all writers, journalists, bloggers, activists and human rights defenders who are being detained solely for practising their right to freedom of expression.
On Tuesday, the authorities released Khaled Dawoud, a prominent journalist who worked for several media outlets including the English edition of state newspaper Al Ahram. Dawoud is also the former head of the liberal Dostour Party and the official spokesman for the National Salvation Front, an opposition coalition formed amid the 2012 political crisis in the country. He was arrested in September 2019 and accused of colluding with a terrorist group and disseminating false news on the social media platform, Facebook, which is considered a criminal offence in Egypt. In the 18 months that Dawoud spent in pre-trial detention, the Egyptian authorities failed to provide any evidence against him.
On Wednesday, Egyptian authorities released two journalists, Solafa Magdy and her husband Hossam el-Sayyad, after spending 17 months in pre-trial detention. The freelance journalists are known for their coverage of many crucial events following the Egyptian Uprising. Authorities accused them of misusing social media, disseminating false news, and participating with a terrorist group.
Responding to the news of their release, Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee, said: “Dawoud, Magdy, and Sayyad have spent many months in prison that they never should have. They were exercising their fundamental right to record what they saw and express peacefully what they felt. By restricting their freedoms, not only did the Egyptian authorities commit grave injustice to them, but also deprived Egyptian society by restricting their right to seek, receive, and impart information. We welcome their release and urge the Egyptian government to ensure that such arrests no longer take place, and that other journalists and writers, in custody, are released without any further delay.”
In September 2019, rare anti-government protests broke out following allegations of corruption and waste of public fund. In response, authorities have carried out sweeping arrests of peaceful protestors, journalists, human rights lawyers, activists and political figures in several governorates across the country. Local human rights organisations reported arbitrary arrests of more than 4000 people in 24 governorates nationwide. In an unprecedented escalation of its crackdown on freedom of expression, security forces arbitrarily stopped hundreds of people in the streets in the days after the protests. They forcibly searched their phones, private correspondence and social media posts for any trace of anti-government views. Many pedestrians were arrested without having taken part in protests. Moreover, security forces rounded up prominent activists, journalists, human rights lawyers, university professors and party leaders, although most had no involvement in the protests.
For more information, please contact Mina Thabet, MENA Regional Coordinator, at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, Unit A, 162-164 Abbey St, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email:Mina.Thabet@pen-international.org
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PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International – PEN’s Secretariat – connects an international community of writers. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. PEN International is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088