Amnesty: ‘Acute dangers’ face journalists in Egypt
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CAIRO: “Journalists in Egypt face acute dangers including arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without charge, prosecution and intimidation,” Amnesty International stated Sunday.

The international rights organization highlighted challenges facing the press in Egypt, where “at least 18 journalists are currently detained, and dozens more have faced arbitrary arrest.”

Mahmoud Abu Zaid, also known as Shawkan, is a photojournalist who has been in a pre-trial detention for over 600 days. He, like many other journalists, is accused of links with the banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group and attempted murder.

He was considered a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood just because as  he said “I was doing my job as a photojournalist during the dispersal of the [2013] Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in.”

He previously slammed his accusations as “lawless, illogical and untrue.”

On the same charge, many journalists have been tossed in jail; some 13 journalists were sentenced to life and one was sentenced to death in April.

After 16 months of detention, photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada was acquitted on April 29 of charges of illegal protesting and belonging to the Brotherhood. He claimed at court he was tortured and witnessed torture of other prisoners while in jail.

“I am a journalist not a criminal…HELP ME!!” Shawkan shouted in an April letter marking the World Press Freedom day, where he described his prolonged detention as an “unbearable nightmare.”

“How far from us is the meaning of press freedom…. Journalism in my country has become a crime, a crime by all measures,” Shawkan continued.

A 2015 press freedom index issued by the Reporters without Borders placed Egypt as 158 out of 180 countries.

Shawkan recalled the global campaign against the January killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, saying “Where are the world leaders who demonstrated in Paris… persistently demanding the right to freedom of expression and press?”

Some of the journalists who were arrested after Rabaa dispersal were also accused of supporting or sympathizing with the Brotherhood, including the three journalists of Al-Jazeera, Qatari-based network whose coverage is in favor of the pre-July 2013 ruling in Egypt.

Two of the network’s journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were recently released pending their retrial after spending over a year in prison under “sham” charges and trial.

Their case has attracted international attention and pressure on the Egyptian government, where some attributed the reason due to inclusion of foreigners.

Canadian journalist Fahmy is still standing trial while his Australian colleague Peter Greste was deported in February per an extradition decree.

Amnesty noted that, unlike the Al-Jazeera case, many jailed journalists are still out of the spotlight.

In a previous statement, Amnesty grouped Egypt among countries whose governments “misuse the courts to prevent journalists from reporting on human rights issues.”

“Any journalist detained solely for their journalistic work must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Amnesty.

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