Egypt arrests editor who called on Sisi to resign over Ethiopian dam dispute

Egypt arrests editor who called on Sisi to resign over Ethiopian dam dispute
Egyptian authorities have detained the former editor-in-chief of the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper after he called on President Sisi to step down over his handling of a dispute with Ethiopia over the Great Renaissance Dam project.
2 min read
21 July, 2021
Sisi was told to step down in the Facebook post [Getty]

The former editor-in-chief of Egypt’s leading state-owned newspaper has been jailed after writing a critical post on Facebook calling on President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to resign over his handling of Egypt's dispute with Ethiopia over the Great Renaissance Dam.

Abdel Nasser Salama, editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram from 2012 to 2014, wrote a Facebook post last week entitled "Do it, President". In it, he said that Sisi should have "the moral and ethical courage to announce his personal responsibility for Egypt’s heavy defeat by Ethiopia, and the loss of Egypt's historic right to the waters of the Nile".

He also called on the president to step down and hand himself over to Egypt's judiciary.

The decade-long dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has turned increasingly bitter. Earlier this month, Ethiopia announced that it had begun filling the reservoir of the giant dam, leading to angry condemnation from Egypt and Sudan.

There are fears that the dam filling will lead to a catastrophic reduction the Nile waters reaching Egypt and Sudan, potentially leading to drought and famine.

African Union mediated talks over the dam earlier this year achieved no progress.

Egypt and Sudan have taken the issue to the UN Security Council but diplomats there believe little can be done to solve the issue.

Salama was arrested in Alexandria on Sunday and charged with "financing terrorism", "spreading false news", and "working with a group formed contrary to law".

The pro-government Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that he was being held for 15 days pending investigation.

Prior to his arrest on Sunday, Salama was subjected to an online campaign against him by pro-government journalists and lawyers.

A hashtag calling him a "foreign agent" and "traitor" was used on Twitter and a lawyer reported him to Egypt's public prosecutor, demanding the journalist be arrested for "spreading false news".

Dissidents and government critics are regularly subjected to persecution in Egypt. Tens of thousands of activists and journalists have been imprisoned there since Sisi overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup in 2013.

Last May, a former Egyptian diplomat was also detained for criticising the Egyptian government's "mismanagement" of the dam crisis.