Democracy Alert: Kamal Elbalshy

Country: Egypt
October 19, 2020

The World Movement joins human rights and press freedom organizations such as EuroMed, RSF, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in denouncing the arrest by Egyptian security forces of Kamal Elbalshy the brother of Khaled Elbalshy, a well-known journalist, editor of Darb news website, and former journalist syndicate leader.

His arrest on September 20 fits into a pattern of persecution by Egyptian authorities, who also recently arrested two reporters working for Khaled at Darb, with the clear goal of pressuring him. Khaled has long written about human rights violations, and so has drawn the ire of the government.

Kamal was arrested on the street on his way home from a gym when police recognized him as Khaled’s brother. He was held in prison until October 1, when the state prosecutor’s office charged Kamal with illegal assembly, membership of a banned group, spreading false news, and misusing social media. A judge ordered him to be detained for 15 days pending trial, according to news reports.

“The targeted and repeated jailing of people close to Khaled Elbalshy are clearly a way of making him suffer for his commitment to covering human rights violations,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Targeting his family and colleagues is appalling and disgraceful, and completely contrary to international law. Everything must be done to make these practices stop.”

“Egyptian authorities must release Kamal el-Balshy immediately and stop their harassment of Darb and its editor, Khaled el-Balshy,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Journalists should be allowed to work freely, without fear that they or their relatives will be jailed. Targeting a journalist’s family is completely unacceptable.”

The CPJ ranks Egypt as the third most frequent jailer of journalists in the world, after only China and Turkey.

Recent years has seen the Egyptian government engage in similar persecutions of many journalists. Authorities recently filed additional charges against imprisoned journalists Mohamed Salah, Solafa Magdy, and Esraa Abdelfattah for actions allegedly committed while in pretrial detention, according to local news reports.

“Filing new charges for crimes allegedly committed while in custody is another way of ensuring that reporters Mohamed Salah, Solafa Magdy, and Esraa Abdelfattah never leave pretrial detention and work freely,” said CPJ’s Sherif Mansour. “These new charges are a clear example of state retaliation against the journalists.”

Magdy, a multimedia reporter who has been held in pretrial detention since November of 2019, heads the One Free Press Coalition’s “10 Most Urgent” list of press freedom cases. The “10 Most Urgent” list, issued this month by a group of distinguished editors and publishers, spotlights journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed and whose cases are particularly flagrant violations of human rights.

Sadly, the World Movement has often issued public appeals for the release of Esraa Abdelfattah, a well-known journalist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. In October 2019 she was arrested by state police for “disseminating false news” and “misusing social media” and tortured while in custody. She remains in detention a year later.