Egyptian authorities on Saturday, 6 February, released an Al-Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who was held in pre-trial detention for four years.
His release is coming days after Egypt, part of a bloc with gulf countries, reconciled with Qatar following years of a diplomatic rift.
In January, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt agreed in the gulf summit to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar. One of the demands of the Saudi coalition was for Qatar to shut down Aljazeera. Qatar rejected all the conditions.
Hussein, 54, an Egyptian working for the Qatar-based satellite network, was detained at the Cairo airport in December 2016, when he arrived on a family vacation from Doha, the network said.
According to Al Jazeera, Egypt’s ministry of interior publicly accused him of disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation.
The journalist’s daughter, el-Zahraa Hussein, confirmed the news in a Facebook post, saying her father had arrived home.
While welcoming the news of his release, Mostefa Souag, acting director-general of the TV network, said: “No journalist should ever be subjected to what Mahmoud has suffered for the past four years for merely carrying out his profession.
“While he was incarcerated, Mahmoud had become a symbol of press freedom across the globe, he added
“On the day of his release, Al Jazeera calls for the freedom for all journalists who are unjustly imprisoned all around the world.
”We commend all international human rights organisations, media institutions, journalists for their continuous support and condemnation against the arbitrary detention of Mahmoud Hussein.
“Journalism is not a crime, Mr Souag concluded.
Last year, the committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) in its annual global survey revealed that at least 274 journalists were jailed in relation to their work, 27 of them in Egypt.
The report described Egypt as a country “which went to great lengths to keep custody of journalists not convicted of any crime.
Egypt ranks near the bottom of press freedom indexes. It’s third on the list of the world’s top jailers of journalists, behind China and Turkey, according to a report by the Committee released earlier in December.