During this COVID-19 pandemic, I write to you to highlight the plight of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, detained in Egypt, as well as the plight of a large number of other journalists imprisoned around the world.
Al Jazeera calls on all governments to immediately release journalists that have been unjustly detained. Overcrowded and unhygienic prison conditions in countries such as Egypt, and elsewhere, are a breeding ground for COVID-19.
In today’s challenging times, journalists around the world are struggling to do their jobs informing their communities and increasing public awareness about the virus. They are doing this in the face of continuing restrictions and harassment by some governments.
As of March 2020, there were 320 journalists detained around the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. Most are imprisoned in China, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These figures include 202 professional journalists; 107 citizen journalists; and 17 other media workers.
Egypt continues to be one of the leading violators of press freedom. Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that over 60 journalists were being held in detention in Egypt.
One of those detained in Egypt is Al Jazeera’s very own, Mahmoud Hussein, a news editor based in Doha. Hussein has been jailed, without charge, for over 1200 days. He was arrested in December 2016 during a visit to his family in Cairo.
With the high risk of transmission of COVID-19 in crowded prison conditions, we believe the time has come for the international community to pressure all governments to free unjustly detained journalists and to reaffirm the values of freedom of expression. As you are aware, many governments have already taken steps to release prisoners.
Amid this pandemic, we urge your good office to join our call to action for the immediate release of Mahmoud Hussein and all other journalists imprisoned around the world.
At Al Jazeera we stand in solidarity with all our colleagues in the media. We believe that no journalist should be intimidated, persecuted or imprisoned for carrying out their duty. We believe in the fundamental truth that freedom of speech is the very basic building block to uphold the values of democracy.
Dr. Mostefa Souag