Egypt: release of Egyptian journalists and activists welcome, but many more remain arbitrarily detained

PEN International welcomes the Egyptian government’s decision to release six Egyptian journalists and activists after months of arbitrary pre-trial detention. On Sunday, the Egyptian authorities released writer and journalist Jamal el-Jammal, activist-journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah, journalists Motaz Wadnan and Mustafa el-Aasar, politician Abdel-Nasser Ismaeil, and prominent human activist Mahienour El-Masry. PEN International urges the Egyptian government to end all security harassment and drop all charges against them.

While welcoming their release, PEN International renews its calls to free all writers, journalists, bloggers, activists and human rights defenders who are being detained solely for practising their right to freedom of expression. Further, PEN International stresses that the Egyptian government should end the use of anti-terrorism and false news legislation to undermine freedom of expression.

El-Jammal, a prominent writer known for his criticism of the government, was arrested at Cairo airport upon arrival from Istanbul in February 2021. He spent years in exile after he was prevented from writing for newspapers due to his critical views. He still facing charges of disseminating false news, misusing social media, and joining an unlawful group.

Abdelfattah, a well-known activist and journalist, was abducted in October 2019 from her car by plainclothes police and subjected to torture and ill-treatment to reveal her phone password. She faces similar charges of disseminating false news, misusing social media, and joining a terrorist group in two cases.

El-Asar and Wadnan, both journalists, have been detained pending trial since February 2018. Both face similar charges, including disseminating false news and joining a terrorist group. In 2019 and 2020, both were additionally charged with the propagation of terrorist acts and disseminating false news as part of separate investigations.

Prominent activist and human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Masry was arrested by security officers in plainclothes in September 2019. She was later charged with aiding a terrorist group in achieving its goals and disseminating false news. In August 2020, she was charged with joining a terrorist organisation as part of a new investigation. Similarly, politician Abdel-Nasser Ismaeil has been held in pre-trial detention since September 2019 on multiple charges, including disseminating false news, misusing social media, and joining a terrorist group.

Since 2018, the Egyptian government has been escalating its crackdown on freedom of expression, arresting and detaining scores of people. Authorities have used counter-terrorism and false news legislation against writers, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders to further crush free speech.

For more information, please get in touch with 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:

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