Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the way that the Egyptian authorities are persecuting people close to Khaled Elbalshy, a prominent website editor who covers human rights violations. After jailing two of his reporters, they are now holding his brother with the clear aim of putting pressure on Elbalshy himself.
Kamal Elbalshy, the owner of a tourism company, was arrested on the street on 20 September after being recognized as the brother of the news website Darb's well-known founder and editor, and was immediately placed in detention.
The judicial authorities have charged Kamal with spreading false news, membership of a banned group, misusing social media and "demonstrating" - participating in a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of anti-government protests in 2019 that are known as the "20 September events."
Before closing in on Khaled Elbalshy's family, the authorities targeted journalists working for his website, which has been blocked since April.
Shimaa Samy was the first victim. She was arrested in May after writing an article for Darb about Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger who has been held since the September 2019 protests. Then Darb reporter Islam Al-Kalhy was arrested when he went to Gizeh on 9 September to cover the protests that broke out there after a man died in detention. Both Samy and Al-Kalhy were charged with membership of a banned group and spreading false news.
Khaled Elbalshy has been subjected for months to a smear campaign in local media outlets. Dozens of articles have accused him of being an "agent" of the Muslim Brotherhood - a political movement now regarded as a terrorist organization in Egypt - and of spreading "lies" about the government's harassment of journalists.
"The targeted and repeated jailing of people close to Khaled Elbalshy are clearly a way of making him suffer for his commitment to covering human rights violations," said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF's Middle East desk. "Targeting his family and colleagues is appalling and disgraceful, and completely contrary to international law. Everything must be done to make these practices stop."
This is not the first time the Egyptian authorities have targeted journalists' families. The son of Magdy Shendy, the editor of the daily Al-Mashhad, was detained for several days in September 2019, while the sister of well-known journalist Alaa Abdel Fattah was jailed last July.
Egypt is ranked 166th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.