Within three days, the Egyptian government arrested three journalists with two of them currently detained at secret locations. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), hundreds of people have been kidnapped or arrested and held in undisclosed locations by Egyptian security forces in recent months, including journalists, students, and activists.
On Wednesday, armed security forces wearing masks raided the offices of the Mada Foundation for Media Development in Cairo and arrested Hisham Jaafar, the director of the organization. After taking Jaafar to his house, security officers reportedly destroyed his furniture and personal belongings. The officers returned Jaafar to his office before transporting him to an undisclosed location.
While searching office computers and questioning staff members at the Mada offices for several hours, security officers prevented their attorneys and human rights groups from entering the offices. Jaafar’s lawyers were finally informed on Sunday that he was being held at Tora prison and had been interrogated by National Security prosecutors.
The day after Jaafar’s arrest, another journalist who works for Mada was arrested at his home. On Thursday morning, security forces raided the home of journalist Hussam el-Sayed and arrested him before taking the reporter to an undisclosed location. Attorneys believe that Jaafar and el-Sayed were arrested due to their work related to Mada, which is a non-governmental organization that provides media training and support for local journalists.
On Friday, a member of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate named Mahmoud Mostafa Saad was detained at Cairo airport, while he was about to travel to London on a student visa. In a phone call from the airport, Saad told his wife that security forces had detained him but refused to inform Saad of the charges against him. He has not been heard from since, and the Ministry of Interior has denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.
“Journalism is over in the Sinai,” a veteran reporter, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, told CPJ. “The only reporting we can do is [to] tell the army’s story. Anything else is a prison wish.”
According the U.S. Department of State, the most significant human rights abuses taking place in Egypt are “excessive use of force by security forces, including unlawful killings and torture; the suppression of civil liberties, including societal and government restriction on freedoms of expression and the press and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and limitations on due process in trials. Domestic and international human rights organizations reported security forces killed demonstrators and police tortured suspects at police stations, sometimes resulting in death.”
Referred to as forced disappearances, hundreds of people, including journalists, students, and activists, have been kidnapped by Egyptian security forces in recent months. Locked up in secret locations where their families and attorneys cannot find them, the detainees are subjected to numerous human rights abuses and are often never seen again. Although the Ministry of Interior denied responsibility for these disappearances in a statement earlier this month, the CPJ has accused the Egyptian government of holding record numbers of people behind bars for their reporting this year.
“With the holding of journalists in undisclosed locations, and not naming any charges against them, Egypt’s leaders are showing they will stop at nothing in their bid to silence the press,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. “We call on authorities to immediately release Mahmoud Mostafa Saad, Hisham Jaafar, and Hussam el-Sayed and stop trampling over the rule of law.”