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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

The campaign to free Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein

Al Jazeera correspondent Mahmoud Hussein with his daughter Aya.

On the 23rd of December this year (2020) senior and respected Al Jazeera correspondent Mahmoud Hussein will have served four years of imprisonment for simply being a journalist in Egypt.

He has never faced any charge or proper trial. Al Jazeera and multiple global journalism NGOs have campaigned steadfastly for his release.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists, at the behest of a member, joined the campaign this year, and we have been using our social media daily to highlight his plight.

Background

Mahmoud Hussein moved to Doha, Qatar in 2013, after Al Jazeera Media Network’s operations were shut down by the Egyptian authorities.

Trouble for him escalated personally when he flew to Cairo to visit his family on the 19th December 2016.

At Cairo’s airport, he was questioned by security officials for over 15 hours.

He was eventually allowed to leave the airport and head home.

But four days later on the 23rd December, he, along with two of his brothers, was arrested at home by the authorities.

Mahmoud Hussein’s colleagues at Al Jazeera campaigning for his release.

He was held in solitary confinement continuously from 23rd December 2016 to 20th March 2017.

His family were desperately worried he was being mistreated and suffered from significant weight loss.

Mahmoud remained in arbitrary detention without charges or trial for well over 1000 days and this injustice has approached the appalling four year mark.

Since his arrest, the Egyptian judiciary has continued to detain him without any charges by extending his imprisonment every 45 days.

This is a fundamental breach of his human rights.

Mahmoud Hussein with fractured elbow while in prison.

While in prison Mahmoud fractured his left elbow and the prison authorities consistently refused to provide him with much needed medical treatment.

They refused his attorney’s request to refer him to a private medical care, despite Al Jazeera committing to cover all medical expenses.

On 23rd May 2019, a court in Egypt rejected the appeal by the prosecutor to continue detention and ordered his release.

But the authorities have opened up a new investigation against him with unspecified charges and returned him to prison.

His arrest in 2016 is believed to be a response to Al Jazeera’s broadcast one month earlier of a documentary on military conscription in Egypt.

Authorities in Cairo have barred broadcasts of Al Jazeera in the country and targeted its journalists on the grounds that the Qatar-based network supports the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

You can watch the 45 minute documentary produced by Al Jazeera World ‘Journalism is Not a Crime: The Story of Mahmoud Hussein’ on the link below.

Institute President Professor Tim Crook makes Christmas 2020 plea for his freedom

In a letter dated 15th December 2020 to Egypt’s Ambassador to the UK in London, Institute President Professor Tim Crook said:

‘Whatever the nature of the politics and tensions between government and international television networks, we would respectfully plead with your government to put these aside and facilitate his release back to his family, friends and colleagues.

The United Nations has consistently recognised that journalists and journalism perform a vital function in modern society by providing a critical watchdog role for the purposes of maintaining human rights and furthering democracy.

The very nature of a journalist’s job should never be considered as a crime or act requiring arbitrary punishment and, in particular, any length of imprisonment that has not been properly adjudicated by an independent judicial process.

At this time of year, all religions, cultures and nations coincidentally celebrate a spirit of forgiveness, goodwill, compassion and deep respect for our fellow human beings.

We would urge the Egyptian government to ensure that Mr Hussein regains his freedom during this season and period of spiritual generosity and magnanimity.’