Al Jazeera says Egypt releases its journalist after 4 years
The Doha-based producer was arrested while on a family trip to Egypt, the Qatari broadcaster said, when relations between the two Arab countries were sour
Egypt has released an Egyptian journalist employed by Al Jazeera after four years in pre-trial detention, the Qatari broadcaster said on Monday.
Hisham Abdel Aziz, a Doha-based producer, was arrested in June 2019 while on a family trip back home. He was briefly released in December of the same year, only to be rearrested and charged in a separate case.
The journalist was charged with "spreading false news" and "joining a terrorist group," rights groups said. The dual charges are often handed out to opponents of the Egyptian authorities.
Al Jazeera said that two more of its journalists remained in Egyptian prison. They were also arrested off duty while visiting family in Egypt, the broadcaster added.
Why was Abdel Aziz arrested?
The Al Jazeera producer's arrest came at the peak of a diplomatic row between Qatar and four Arab countries.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt announced boycotting the Arab country over its alleged support of terrorism, accusations which Doha denied.
Qatar supported Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the military in 2013 and replaced by current general turned President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi a year later. As a result, relations between the two countries soured for years even before the 2017 boycott.
Cairo accused Al Jazeera, seen as an extension of Doha's policies and stances, of being a mouthpiece of Morsi's banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
The row between the five Arab countries was dissolved in early 2021, with Egypt welcoming Al Jazeera to operate on its territory once again.
Egypt's among 'top jailers of journalists'
Since the 2013 power shift, Egypt has been accused by rights groups of putting tens of thousands of political prisoners behind bars. Those jailed have included several journalists.
Egyptian authorities have also raided the offices of several media outlets seen as critical of the government, including Al Jazeera. At least two foreign journalists whose reporting on the country was deemed critical were also expelled from the country.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) considers Egypt among the world's top jailers of journalists, with over 20 journalists jailed. On the RSF's World Press Freedom Index, Egypt ranks 168th out of 180 countries.
Al Jazeera said in its Monday report that it has repeatedly called upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately release its jailed journalists.