Egypt Arrests Two Journalists Over Their Intent to 'Spread False News'

Freelance journalists May al-Sabbagh and Ahmed Moustafa were working on a report on the historic Alexandria tramway for the Al Bayan newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates

An election campaign billboard of presidential candidate and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen on top of a building in Cairo, alongside narrow houses and factories, May 22, 2014.
REUTERS

Egyptian prosecutors have ordered Friday the detention of two journalists for 15 days pending an investigation after their arrest while preparing a report on the historic Alexandria tramway.

Defense attorney Mohammed Hafez said the decision regarding freelance journalists May al-Sabbagh and Ahmed Moustafa came after their arrest Wednesday. He said the two were working on a report for the Al Bayan newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates.

Hafez said the two Egyptian citizens face charges including belonging to an outlawed group and possession of visual and audio equipment with the intent to spread false news.

Egypt has regularly detained, jailed and prosecuted journalists under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, who led the military’s 2013 overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslin Brotherhood.

The government has already sought to exert heavy control over reporting on the March 26-28 election, issuing guidelines barring journalists from asking who people would vote for beforehand or from conducting any polling. Authorities have also increasingly depicted criticism as a violation of national security, at a time when Egypt is trying to revive its economy battered by years of turmoil and contain an insurgency by Islamic militants.

Egypt ranks near the bottom of press freedom indexes.