Egypt's Sisi regime arrested four more journalists last week and charged them with the catch-all crime of "publishing false news".
Harassment of the media has increased markedly in Egypt since Sisi seized power in 2013. Last year Egypt had more imprisoned journalists than any country apart from China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In 2012 there were none in jail; in 2014 there were 12 and in 2015 the total almost doubled to 23.
Three of the four arrested last week – photojournalists Hamdy Mokhtar, Mohamed Hassan, and Osama al-Bishbishi were arrested last Monday while filming near the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo.
The CPJ reports:
Each of the three journalists arrested on September 26 works with a different privately owned outlet, but were arrested together while interviewing passers-by for their opinions on a recent initiative by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi encouraging Egyptians to donate their spare change in order to fund national projects, an initiative that sparked ridicule on social media.
Security forces arrested them on the spot, without stating any clear reason, according to a statement published by news website al-Naba'a, Hassan's employer. Al-Bishbishi is a photographer and cameraman with the news website Baladi. Mokhtar is a freelance photographer who works with the newspaper el-Shaab el-Jadeed, which is generally supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership ousted in 2013.
The three journalists were interrogated by prosecutors and officers from Egypt's domestic intelligence agency throughout the night of September 27, lawyers Fatema Serag and Nourhan Hassan told the Egyptian press freedom group Journalists Against Torture Observatory. The next morning, prosecutors charged all three with belonging to a banned organisation, inciting violence and terrorism online, and publishing false news. Prosecutors ordered them held in pretrial detention for a renewable 15 days.
The fourth journalist arrested last week was Noura Nasser whose employer – the opposition news website Masr al-Arabia – says she was arrested while covering a protest by graduate students in front of the cabinet building on Tuesday. Unlike the other three, she was later released but still faces charges of "publishing false news", spreading information on social media on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, and "harming national unity", according to Masr al-Arabia.