Hussien Abdel Halim, the arrested Al-Dostour journalist, who was arrested Saturday by the police, is a “scapegoat” in the series of in police critical articles published by the newspaper, a source close to him said.
The source, who requested anonymity due to security reasons, told Daily News Egypt : “It is unfair that Abdel Halim was arrested for his critical articles, while the ones responsible for managing the whole newspaper and for the campaign against the police are not.”
Abdel Halim, a reporter from Al-Dostour newspaper, was arrested by the police Saturday. according to a statement by the ministry Sunday.
The statement said the journalist had been charged over a range of criminal offences from drug and weapons possession to theft, to forgery and bribery.
It said Hussien Abdel Halim was arrested Saturday, “because he was charged in seven cases, some of which he was sentenced in”.
A fellow journalist with the privately owned Al-Dostor said that Abdel Halim was arrested Saturday morning in front of the newspaper’s headquarters in Garden City.
However, the different charges were allegedly for crimes committed between 2003 and 2013.
The police say they arrested Abdel Halim as part of “the investigation bureau’s efforts to detain wanted fugitives”. The ministry statement said, however, that Abdel Halim’s articles report alleged “police violations”.
Abdel Halim has reported on alleged police violations against civilians in police stations, prisons, and at checkpoints. Abdel Halim argues that, due to his investigations, he discovered police officers sexually harassed women in road checkpoints, verbally assaulted civilians, and received bribes from drivers.
He also reported on “inhumane” conditions in Egyptian prisons, citing torture cases. In the report, Abdel Halim based his argument on the government-backed National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) report of the presence of violations against detainees.
A source close to Abdel Halim, who requested anonymity due to security reasons, said that he was responsible for the security file in the newspaper and had close ties with interior ministry officials.
“Abdel Halim is currently serving a sentence, and will be interrogated in the other charges,” he said. The source added: “It is unfair that Abdel Halim was arrested for his critical articles, while the ones responsible for managing the whole newspaper and for the campaign against the police are not.”
He explained that Abdel Halim was assigned to report on the police violations and supervised two pages, while the front page contained “radical accusations and rhetoric”.
The source added: “It is irrational for the journalist to be arrested while the owner of the newspaper is untouched. The Interior Ministry will not touch the businessmen but can easily arrest and jail the reporter.”
“The arrest of Abdel Halim illustrates the problem with private newspapers in Egypt. Non-members of the Press Syndicate are abused by owners of newspapers, who force them into controversial topics,” the source said.“Abdel Halim had good relations with the police. The arrest is certainly personal.”
The majority of private Egyptian newspapers are owned by businessmen.
In its statement, the ministry added that Abdel Halim based his articles “on arguments and assumptions of which some are still being looked into by the prosecution. He aimed to distort the police institution among the public opinion, and neglect the accomplishments, as well as the fact that many police personnel have died to protect the homeland.”
The police also demanded the Egyptian press to “carefully choose their reporters”.
This is not the first time where the Interior Ministry commented on the content of the press. In previous incidents the ministry denied arguments by Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
The privately owned Al-Dostor newspaper is known to be supportive of the government, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General.
However, since last week the newspaper has printed articles directly critical of the Egyptian police.
On the front page of its 8 April issue, the newspaper wrote that “such violations are being covered up by the current media center of the ministry”. The newspaper also boldly stated “violations have increased since the 30 June revolution, and that narcotics trade is being supervised by the police”.
The Ministry of Interior has been receiving heavy criticism over torture and violent treatment with civilians.