Solafa Magdy, Hossam El Sayad and Egypt’s nearly 30 detained journalists must be freed now

By Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of International Women’s Media Foundation | Originally Published: Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership Newsletter, December 2020

Today we’re presented with a deeply troubling anniversary: it’s been just over one year since Egyptian journalists Solafa Magdy and her husband, Hossam El Sayad, were imprisoned simply for doing their jobs, without contact to their seven-year-old son, Khaled.

It may not be surprising that their detention was based on charges of “fake news,” and, “inciting terrorism,” but the reality is that since President Sisi rose to power in Egypt in 2013, journalists throughout the country have been purposefully targeted, arrested and wrapped-up in years of pre-trial detention to erode independent journalism.

Currently, there are close to 30 Egyptian journalists in jail.

Besides being barred from basic human rights, Solafa and Hossam, like other imprisoned journalists, are also at severe risk for contracting covid-19, which festers in jails and environments with deteriorating conditions.

On December 1, Solafa received IWMF’s International Courage in Journalism Award for her bravery, her relentless drive to report and her focus on telling stories of humanity, which are too often underreported in her country. You can view the Post Live event here.

On December 3, the IWMF ran a Post Press Freedom Partnership ad in the paper on behalf of journalists seeking a free press in Egypt. The ad includes portions of a statement from Solafa and Hossam’s international network of peers on the current state of journalism in Egypt and those who remain behind bars because they chose to report.

This network of journalists reminds us:

Solafa Magdy and Hossam El Sayad were arrested arbitrarily, simply because they did their job as journalists. They have been in jail waiting for a sentence, as their son is waiting for his mother and father to come home. As millions of young Egyptians in the wave of the 2011 uprising, Solafa hoped for a better future. She hoped that coming generations would get the chance to express their views without fear of being arrested or forced into silence. While we are enjoying our freedom to work as journalists, and simply our freedom to live, Solafa and Hossam are behind bars, deprived of their lives. In the meantime, around thirty other journalists are jailed now in Egypt for no other reason than doing their job. We want to strongly condemn this widespread crackdown of the Egyptian regime against journalism and the freedom of speech. Free Solafa Magdy, free Hossam El Sayad, free all the journalists detained in Egypt.”

Please consider joining us to advocate for the prevention of these attacks on the press and the resurgence of independent news media in Egypt.

See the ad in The Washington Post: