A court in Egypt has sentenced Khaled al-Balshy and Yehia Qallash to two years in prison. Mr. Qallash’s fellow journalists – Mahmoud al-Sakka and Gamal Abdel Rahim – have also been hit with harsh sentences.
It has been confirmed that Qallash, Rahim, and al-Balshy are free after paying $630 bail as they await the appeal. According to the Egyptian media, in May, Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka, who are writers for the website Bawabet Yanayer, were arrested.
The journalists were apprehended during a raid at the journalists’ union headquarter. During the raid, one security guard was seriously injured in the eye. They fled and hid in the building after warrants were issued for their arrest.
The pair has been accused of criticizing President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi‘s government. The reporters were very vocal in their opposition to the government’s decision to hand over two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.
The authorities claimed that the reporters were inciting violence against the government. In early May, dozens of local and foreign media personalities were detained for reporting the news, which was unfavorable to al-Sisi. At the time of the arrests, the union released a statement that read:
“The raid by security forces whose blatant barbarism and aggression on the dignity of the press and journalists and their syndicate has surprised the journalistic community and the Egyptian people.”
During the trial, supporters gathered outside of the courtroom with signs and chanted “Journalists are not terrorists.” The men have been flooded with messages of support and love on Facebook where they have been keeping the public up to date on their individual situation.
In a statement, the interior ministry claimed that there was never any raid. They claimed that less than 12 officers entered the premises to arrest the reporters and no one was injured in the process. The statement also blasted Bawabet Yanayer for publishing fake stories to “incite protesters to clash with authorities.” The publication has denied the claims.