Human rights and media freedom groups demand the immediate release of Ashraf Hamdi, who was abducted from his home after posting a video tribute to the 2011 uprising.
Human rights groups have called for the immediate release of an Egyptian cartoonist who wrote on Facebook that he was arrested shortly after posting a video online paying tribute to the country’s 2011 uprising in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the first mass protests that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
“I’m getting arrested,” Ashraf Hamdi said in the Monday morning post. Hundreds of users have since shared, and many are wondering where it is.
Hamdi previously posted a short cartoon video devoted to the “heroes” of Mohamed Mahmoud Street in central Cairo, where dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with security forces in November 2011.
On Monday, two security sources confirmed to Reuters news agency that authorities had arrested Hamdi, who runs a YouTube channel called Egyptoon, which has more than 3 million subscribers. The sources said the cartoonist – who is also a dentist – was taken early in the morning from his home to investigate charges of misuse of social media sites and spreading fake news.
There was no immediate comment from the authorities.
‘Stop this crime’
In a statement released on Monday, the director of the Arab Human Rights Information Network, Gamal Eid, called for Hamdi’s immediate release.
“We hope that the prosecutor will rush to put an end to this crime,” the statement read.
He added: “His arrest in this manner on the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution against police practices clearly indicates that the police have not changed and that such an approach is an inherent feature of the Egyptian police apparatus. . So will the prosecutor act and assume his role of protecting the law and citizens’ freedoms? “
The protests that led to the overthrow of Mubarak and helped spread a wave of protests in the region began ten years ago, on January 25, when Egypt marks National Police Day.
According to RSF, 32 journalists are currently in prison (33 if Ashraf Hamdi is not released). Egypt is one of the largest jailers of journalists in the world. The organization calls for their immediate and unconditional release. pic.twitter.com/w6L97eld5q
– RSF (@RSF_inter) 25 January 2021
On Monday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave an annual speech at the Cairo Police Academy which emphasized the importance of stability and development, but briefly referred to the uprising.
“Today coincides with Egypt’s celebration of the January 25 revolution, a revolution led by sincere youth aspiring to a better future and reality,” el-Sisi said.
“I say to the Egyptian youth that your nation is counting on your youthful weapons and your sincere efforts to complete the path of reform, construction and development.”
In 2013, then-army chief el-Sisi led the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president. El-Sisi became president in 2014 and oversaw a broad crackdown on political dissent.
The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday condemned the “cynicism” of the Egyptian authorities after Hamdi’s arrest on the 10th anniversary of the revolution, claiming that press freedom in the country was at its lowest point.
“Ten years after the Egyptian revolution, the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has muzzled the country’s journalists and media,” said Sabrina Bennoui, head of RSF’s Middle East office. “Journalists can no longer say what they think and have no choice but to repeat the official line or risk imprisonment for threatening the stability of the state.”
According to RSF’s count, more than 100 journalists have been subjected to arbitrary arrests or imprisonment since January 2014