FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2019
Contact: April Brady, Communications Coordinator, POMED, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-804-4747
(Washington, D.C.) – The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) issued the following statement regarding the arrest of Egyptian journalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada:
POMED is increasingly concerned about the detention of Ahmed Gamal Ziada, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. He was originally detained on January 29, 2019, after traveling from Tunis to Cairo in order to complete his membership in the Egyptian Press Syndicate. Upon arrival at the Cairo International Airport, Ziada was detained for two weeks without charge. He has since been accepted by the Syndicate as an official member.
Ziada was held incommunicado for 14 days with no indication of his whereabouts and without access to legal representation or his family. On February 13, 2019, the Omraneyah public prosecution officially charged Ziada with publishing and broadcasting false news in State Security case 67/2019. On February 16, his pretrial detention was extended for 15 days. He is expected to be brought before the Omraneyah court once again this Saturday, March 2. If convicted, Ziada could face up to a year in prison.
Ziada’s detention is yet another example of the Egyptian government’s ongoing crackdown on a free press, behavior that has earned it a Freedom House ranking of “Not Free” each year since 2013. Most recently, Egypt denied entry to New York Times correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick when he tried to enter the country on February 18. Prior to Ziada’s detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists identified at least 25 journalists who were in prison as of December 2018, 19 on charges of “false news”—more than any other country in the world.
“The arrest and detention of Ziada is by no means an isolated incident, but just one egregious example of the unchecked repression of Egypt’s citizens by the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” said POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney. “The recent escalation of this crackdown aims to eliminate public discussion of any kind while the regime amends Egypt’s constitution to extend presidential term limits, expand the president’s control over the judiciary, and formalize a dominant role for the military in Egyptian society.”
Ziada was previously arrested by Egyptian authorities in December 2013 while filming arbitrary arrests prior to protests at al-Azhar University in Cairo. He was held in pre-trial detention for 16 months, where he was subjected to physical violence and torture. He was finally released in May 2015 after being acquitted of all charges. Later that year, Ziada was severely wounded when two unidentified individuals stabbed him repeatedly near the Cairo University metro station in an attack that Egyptian human rights groups widely believe was connected to his journalism.
The Egyptian government must dismiss the current spurious charges, release Ziada, and end all restrictions on his freedom of movement and expression. We urge the international community to press the Egyptian authorities to resolve this case swiftly and to end its ongoing violations of the rights of Egypt’s citizens.
# # #