A Cairo Court renewed Monday the pre-trial detention of Al-Masriya photojournalist Wagdy Ghaly for a further 15 days.
Ghaly was arrested during the funeral of former Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat whilst taking photographs outside the Omar Makram Mosque in Downtown Cairo.
Barakat was assassinated last week, after being targeted in a bombing in Heliopolis.
Ghaly, who worked for the pro-government online website Al-Masriya, was charged with “joining a terrorist group”.
The prosecution is currently investigating the case, and is awaiting the investigations of the Homeland Security apparatus. Ghaly is a member of the Egyptian Online Journalists’ Syndicate, an unofficial syndicate that aims to protect the rights of online journalists, but has limited effect due to not being recognised by the state.
A colleague of Ghaly’s, who preferred anonymity, said that the syndicate did not legally intervene to assist the journalist. He added that “in cases of belonging to a syndicate or showing identifications that you are a journalist you can easily get arrested”.
The journalist said that many young reporters thrive to join syndicates in the journalism business to guarantee legal safety. However, when it comes to “terrorism related charges, they will be in trouble”.
Last Wednesday, three journalists were arrested whilst covering the killings of nine Muslim Brotherhood members at the forensic authority. Al-Shaab newspaper reporter Hamdy Al-Zaeem, freelance reporter Sherif Ashraf, and Al-Tahrir newspaper reporter Mohamed Adly are two of the three journalists arrested.
They were released on Thursday, only to be re-arrested Friday evening. They are facing charges of working for Al Jazeera channel and belonging to a terrorist organisation. The three journalists were detained in the Sayeda Zeinab police station, and there was an investigation by the State Security apparatus.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the number of detained journalists in Egypt is currently the highest since 1991.
Of the 18 journalists currently imprisoned, one-third have been handed life-sentences. Most are accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, as “the government abuses the anti-terrorism law”, the organisation, which works to safeguard journalists, said.
Because of Egypt’s heavy restrictions on journalists and press freedom, places like Sinai are underreported. A veteran reporter told the CPJ: “Journalism is over in Sinai… the only reporting we can do is tell the army’s story. Anything else is a prison wish.”
In a recent development, the Press Syndicate’s council expressed concern over articles related to the press in the expected new terrorism law.
During last weeks’ violent clashes between militants and the Egyptian army in Sinai, local and international news outlets reported more than 50 army causalities, a figure criticised by the Egyptian government and the Foreign Ministry.
The proposed law stipulates that publishing news or information on terrorist attacks that conflicts with official statements would be a crime punishable by a minimum of two years imprisonment.