The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the referral of journalists Amr Salama Al-Qazzaz, co-founder of the Rassd Network, and Islam Al-Homsi, director of the social media department at the network, to the Military Misdemeanour Court on charges of publishing leaked videos of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi.
The journalists were referred to the North Cairo military court on 23 February 2014 on charges of defaming the army. The first trial hearing is scheduled for 24 February.
Al-Qazzaz was apprehended on 12 November 2013 whereby all equipment found in his house and his car, including his laptop, cellphone, and all documents, were confiscated. Al-Homsi was arrested six days later when leaving an auditorium at the Faculty of Commerce where he studies.
The investigation process lasted for nearly three months at the military prosecution till a decision for referral to the military court was made.
This is not the first time Al-Qazzaz faces arbitrary treatment by the authorities. In 2008, his name was deleted from the the faculty of media's student union at Sinai University; although his papers were accepted at the beginning. When he was at the Committee Overseeing Elections, Salama was asked about the reason behind that procedure, he said that he was excluded due to security interventions. Salama also mentioned that he has a blog entitled “Lesa Ayesh" (Still Alive).
“Referring journalists to criminal or military courts is a clear encroachment on freedom of expression and opinion," stated ANHRI, "Additionally, it is a perpetuation of arbitrary procedures that have been taken, recently, by Egyptian authorities against journalists, media professionals and opinion makers."
According to ANHRI, leaked parts of Sisi's interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper is likely malpractice on the part of the journalist responsible for the interview. Therefore, the journalist should bear administrative sanctions from within his own network. It should not be considered a violation by Rassd News and its journalists shouldn't be paying the price for publishing the leaked information.
ANHRI urges the military judiciary to promptly drop all charges against the journalists and to release them. It also calls on the Egyptian government to suspend any form of targeting of journalists and media professionals in light of their opinions and criticisms, in a bid to respect the newly-drafted constitution that defends freedom of expression and press freedom.