Egypt: Darb chief editor “Balshy” interrogated over fake news allegations

In the latest assault on the media in Egypt, prosecutors have interrogated Khaled al-Balshy, editor-in-chief of Darb, an independent news website, over allegations of publishing fake news and misusing social media

On January 4, Egyptian prosecutors interrogated Khaled al-Balshy, editor-in-chief of the independent news website Darb, for several hours over allegations of publishing fake news and misusing social media before releasing him pending further investigation.

According to human rights lawyer Khaled Ali, a member of al-Balshy’s defense team, the investigation came after several people filed reports last year against the journalist over Darb’s coverage of the last parliamentary elections and of the conditions faced by prisoners of conscience.

Nine human rights organizations issued a statement condemning the investigation into al-Balshy, who was formerly a member of the Journalists’ Syndicate and has served as editor-in-chief at several other outlets, and demanding that authorities cease their “continuous targeting” of him and his associated organizations.

The signatories pointed out that authorities have blocked four websites for which al-Balshy served as editor, including Darb, without providing any justification.

They added that Darb, “one of the few independent press websites that still publishes its reports from inside Egypt despite the blocking of the site,” has been the subject of “constant security targeting.”

Authorities have previously arrested Darb journalist Islam al-Kahli and al-Balshy’s brother, Kamal al-Balshy, in what the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information described as retaliation for Khaled al-Balshy’s work. They were both released after several months in pretrial detention.

The human rights organizations concluded that the continued targeting of al-Balshy is evidence that the government’s claim to be making “tangible changes to the human rights situation in Egypt and to respect the freedom of the press and media” is a farce.

Three days ago, on January 3,  authorities renewed the pretrial detention of Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms researcher Ibrahim Ezzedin, who has been in prison since June 2019 under two separate cases with the same charges, for another 45 days.