Egypt releases journalist arrested over coverage of detainee's death

Egypt releases journalist arrested over coverage of detainee's death
2 min read
08 March, 2021
Journalists Islam El-Kalhy and Hassan Al-Qabbani were released on Sunday after a respective six months and 1.5 years in pre-trial detention.
Kalhy will now be held under house arrest, his employer said [Facebook]
Egyptian authorities released two journalists from pre-trial detention on Sunday, a local press freedom watchdog said.

Islam El-Kalhy and Hassan al-Qabbani were released from police custody, the Egyptian Observatory for Journalism and Media (EOJM) said in separate statements.

Kalhy will be kept under house arrest until his next court session, said Khaled al-Balshi, editor-in-chief of opposition news website Darb.

The Darb reporter was detained in September last year after covering the death in custody of a 26-year-old man.

The man's family accused the police of killing him, claims denied by Egyptian officials.

The allegations sparked rare spontaneous protests outside the local police station, which Kalhy was arrested while covering for the news site.

Kalhy faces charges of reporting fake news and joining and participating in a terrorist organisation, according to the EOJM.

Qabbani is also charged with publishing fake news and participating in a terrorist organisation, a regular charge used against alleged opponents of the Cairo government.

The journalist faces additional charges of financial crime and misusing social media, according to the EOJM.

Qabbani was arrested in 2019 after presenting himself to security forces as part of probation pre-conditions from a previous arrest. The detention came ahead of planned anti-government protests amid allegations of corruption.

His initial arrest in 2015 on espionage and other charges came after he published articles criticising the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power in a military coup two years earlier. 

A defender of ousted Presiden Mohammed Morsi, Qabbani published some of his articles in an outlet linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The press freedom advocate was released on Sunday but it is unclear whether he will be held under house arrest.

At least 27 journalists are currently detained in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, making the country one of the world's most prolific jailers of journalists.

Cairo has aggressively clamped down on independent journalism and dissent since 2013, arresting thousands of activists, Islamists, reporters and lawyers.

Many of the estimated 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt are held under indefinite pre-trial detention orders.

The country ranks 166th out of 180 countries in media watchdog Reporters Without Borders' 2020 world press freedom index.

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