Egypt: Four journalists arrested, 'electrocuted' for conducting vox pop

CairoUpdated: Oct 02, 2016, 05:38 AM IST
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The journalists complained of being beaten up and electrocuted during interrogation by Egypt's domestic intelligence agency. Photograph:(AFP)

Egyptian authorities arrested three journalists on September 26 while conducting interviews near the Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. 

The three scribes — Hamdy Mokhtar, Mohamed Hassan, and Osama al-Bishbishi — were interviewing people on the street about President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's proposal to donate their spare money to fund national projects. 

According to CPJ, the journalists complained to their lawyers of being beaten and electrocuted during interrogation by Egypt's domestic intelligence agency.

"Mokhtar had shown the worst signs of physical abuse, with visible bruises to his neck and back," the journalists' lawyer Nourhan Hassan said.

Another reporter Noura Nasser, who was covering a protest in downtown Cairo, was arrested on September 27. All four were charged with "publishing false news".

CPJ executive director Joel Simon said, "The delusion that jailing journalists on charges of reporting 'false news' for interviewing people on the street or photographing a protest will change reality is a false hope.

We call on Egyptian authorities to drop all charges against journalists Hamdy Mokhtar, Mohamed Hassan, and Osama al-Bishbishi, and Noura Nasser without delay."

The Egyptian government, however, has refuted that the journalists were detained for "publishing false news", although no official has come on record to specify the grounds for arrest. 

The three journalists work for different organisations. Hamdy Mokhtar is a freelance photographer working with el-Shaab el-Jadeed, a pro-Muslim Brotherhood newspaper. 

Osama Al-Bishbishi is a photographer and cameraman with Baladi website and Mohamed Hassan worked with news website al-Naba'a.

According to al-Naba'a, the journalists were not given any reason for their arrest. 

Egyptian press freedom group, Journalists Against Torture Observatory, were informed by the journalists lawyers Fatema Serag and Nourhan Hassan that they had been interrogated all night on September 27, and the next morning the authorities charged them for "belonging to a banned organisation, inciting violence and terrorism online, and publishing false news".

They have been put in custody for 15 days. They will be put on trial after that.

The crackdown on journalists started in 2013 when press freedom was curbed after the military coup. Since then, 23 reporters have been arrested in Egypt as per CPJ data. 

In Egypt, reportage can only be done in events permitted by the government or pro-government media agencies.