Veteran Egyptian journalist says he faces interrogation over elections, jail conditions coverage
CAIRO – Veteran Egyptian journalist Khaled El-Balshy has told The New Arab that he is due to be interrogated next week after a number of citizens filed legal complaints against him for allegedly running fake news.
Balshy said he received a phone call from the prosecution’s office on Sunday, ordering him to present himself at the office the following day.
“Upon appearing at the prosecutor’s office, I was surprised to find nine complaints filed against me by citizens I knew nothing about that included photocopies of news stories published in Darb, of which I’m the editor-in-chief , and a post on my Facebook page on the latest parliamentary elections,” Balshy told The New Arab on Wednesday.
“The stories included a report by the supreme council of human rights on the first stage of the elections, follow-ups, and coverage as well as news on the renewal of pre-trial detentions and the conditions of detainees in Egypt,” he added.
It was later revealed that the complaints had been filed in November 2020. The prosecution, according to Balshy, allowed him and his lawyer to look into the file, but denied them the right to acquire a photocopy of it to be able to study the case.
Official interrogation is set to start on Tuesday, 4 January.
Balshy has been an editor at a number of news outlets, all of which have been shut down by the authorities. He was also formerly a press syndicate board member.
Darb is among about 500 other local and international news outlets and websites been blocked in Egypt, among them The New Arab and Human Rights Watch.
“The idea of targeting whoever left with a free voice remains," prominent human rights lawyer Mohsen Bahnasy told The New Arab.
"What’s surprising is that the prosecution takes these complaints seriously. Also, the attitude of the prosecution towards Balashy, granting him no right to have a copy of the complaints is totally unacceptable, if not illegal,” Bahnasy said.
“It’s true there are developments and accomplishments undertaken by the government across the country, but civil rights are not among them,” he added. “Why keep free voices silent?”
In 2017, he and two other colleagues were given suspended prison sentences on charges of harbouring colleagues wanted by the authorities for expressing critical views of the government.
News of Balshy's impending interrogation has sent shockwaves on social media, with users re-using an old hashtag: “support Khaled El-Balshy.”
Journalist and activist Rasha Azab tweeted: “I have known Khaled El-Balshy for years. I knew him in the [time of] distress that we all encountered. Khaled had the biggest share of ordeals, sufferings, and patience…Khaled is facing a new case. I support him till the end.”
High-profile human rights lawyer Gamal Eid tweeted: “They blocked four news websites led by Khaled El-Balashy… he was subjected to a smear campaign by failure [talk show hosts]… he maintained his integrity and professionalism. Now decent citizens are after him by fake complaints!”