Mohamed Mounir: Another journalist arrested in Egypt

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Egyptian security forces arrested at dawn on Monday the journalist and writer Mohamed Mounir from his home in Sheikh Zayed City, west of Cairo. The family of the leftist opponent journalist said, in a statement published on his Facebook account, that the “secret police” kidnapped Mounir at dawn on Monday from the family’s apartment in Sheikh Zayed City and took him to an unknown location. The family added that they have reported it to the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate and the National Council for Human Rights. Mounir’s family expressed hope that they would move quickly to find out where he was being held, and to attend investigations with him, as he is a member of the Journalists’ Syndicate.

Mounir’s family indicated that the law obliges police to inform the Journalists’ Syndicate before arresting a journalist, especially if the charge against him relates to publishing and the media. The family explained that Mounir’s arrest came after his participation in a television interview on Al Jazeera, in which he spoke about the crisis of the Egyptian church and the government magazine Rose Al-Youssef.

The family affirmed that “what he said was just an expression of opinion, and he did not say in his words what is harmful to the country or national unity. Rather, he is one of the keenest people on national unity and his political and media history testifies to that. He also warned in this interview from attempts to exploit this crisis to stir sectarianism.

Mounir had published, through his Facebook page, a video in which he said that security forces went to his home to arrest him, but he was not there. He confirmed his convictions and positions regarding what is happening in the country, then his family announced later that he had been arrested.

The crisis of the Rose Al-Youssef magazine broke out after it published a report criticising the insistence of some of the bishops of the Egyptian Church to establish collective prayers, despite the instructions of the patriarchy to stop them to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The article was titled “Holy Ignorance … Killing in the Name of God,” which angered bishops in the Egyptian Church.

The Egyptian authorities interfered, prevented the publication of the magazine, and confiscated the printed issues. Mounir expressed in his television interview clear solidarity with the journalists at Rose Al-Youssef magazine, and considered that they did not make any professional violation. But the problem is that the Egyptian regime also considers appearing in a phone call or an interview on Al Jazeera a crime, because it is broadcast from Qatar, which the regime of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi considers a regional enemy. Mounir’s friends say that the Egyptian regime has been preparing to arrest him anyway, because of his opinions that oppose the policies of the Egyptian regime.

A few years ago, Mounir was dismissed from the newspaper Al-Youm7, owned by the Egyptian Intelligence Agency, where he worked as deputy editor-in-chief, because of his opposition to the agreement to demarcate the maritime borders with Saudi Arabia, according to which the Egyptian regime ceded the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi.

Mounir said in a video a few hours before his arrest that he is an opinion writer, and that the Egyptian regime dismissed him and prevented him from appearing on satellite channels broadcasting from Egypt. In light of this, appearing on a satellite broadcast from abroad or writing articles for a foreign site is normal so he can earn a living.

Mounir, 65, suffers from sensitive health conditions, especially as he is obese, and some of his friends expressed concern about his life after his arrest, due to the poor conditions of detention in secret detention centres and prisons in Egypt, especially due to the spread of coronavirus.

Human rights sources say that the number of journalists detained in Egypt for political reasons exceeds 35. Most of them are still in pretrial detention, and a few of them have received prison sentences. But the total number of detained journalists and media exceeds 75, among them directors, bloggers, writers, or young journalists who are not registered with the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate.

In addition to these, dozens of journalists and media workers have been arrested by the Egyptian regime over the past years; most of them were released after many years in pretrial detention.