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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egypt releases jailed journalist following outcry

Basma Mostafa has been released from prison [Twitter]

Date of publication: 6 October, 2020

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Egypt’s prosecutor general has ordered the release of a journalist days after she was arrested for covering anti-Sisi protests, after an outcry from press freedom groups

Egypt's prosecutor-general has ordered the release of a journalist days after she was arrested in the country's south, amid outcry from international press freedom advocates.

"The prosecutor-general has ordered the release of the defendant Basma Mostafa after she was questioned on the charges laid against her," the prosecution said in a statement overnight Monday into Tuesday, adding that the investigation would continue.

Prosecutors had accused her of "using her personal social media account to publish and promote false news", the statement said.

Mostafa, a freelance journalist, was brought before prosecutors on Sunday.

She was arrested the day before while attempting to report on the police killing of a man in the wake of demonstrations last month near the southern city of Luxor, according to the Al-Manassa news website, where she is a regular contributor.

Her lawyers had said on Sunday that she would be detained for 15 days.

New York-based press freedom watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Monday characterised her arrest as a "clear retaliation for covering news that the Egyptian government wants to suppress".

Read also: Sisi bulldozes homes with renewed disdain for Egypt’s poor

Also on Monday, the International Press Institute (IPI) in Vienna called her detention "outrageous" and accused the international community of turning "a blind eye to the gross press freedom and human rights violations in Egypt".

Both organisations identified Mostafa as the wife of Karim Abdelrady, whom the IPI described as a "human rights lawyer... who represents several detained journalists and human rights defenders in Egypt".

Dozens of Egyptians took to the streets last month in several villages across the country, according to videos shared widely on social media.

The demonstrations coincided with mounting anger, particularly in rural and low-income areas, over sweeping government campaigns against unlicenced buildings, which have forced people to pay fines to legalise home ownership.

They came after exiled businessman Mohamed Ali, who has emerged as a vocal critic of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since last year, called for protests against the government.

Egypt has increasingly targeted journalists in an ongoing crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military ouster of the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

The clampdown has swept up both secular and Islamist activists, as well as lawyers and academics.

Egypt is the third-worst jailer of journalists globally behind China and Turkey, according to a 2019 CPJ report.

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