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Egypt: Journalist 'disappeared' while attempting to travel to China

Mahmoud Saad Diab was working for the state-owned Al-Ahram news foundation when he arrived at Cairo airport on 6 September
Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Saad Diab, 40, was detained when attempting to board a flight in Cairo to China on 6 September 2022 (Social media)

Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Saad Diab has "disappeared" since attempting to board a flight to China from Cairo airport two months ago, his colleague has revealed.

The report comes as the Egyptian government hosts the UN climate change conference, Cop27, in Sharm el-Sheikh resort, amid harsh criticism from rights groups, US lawmakers, and public figures over its notorious record of human rights abuses and stifling press freedom.

Diab was working for the state-owned Al-Ahram news foundation when he arrived at Cairo airport on 6 September to board a flight to China for a work assignment with local TV.

Mahmoud Kamel, a member of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, said in a Facebook post that security forces detained Diab and since then, he had "completely disappeared".

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"On the second day of his absence, his family received a message from him via WhatsApp from his phone number, in which he confirmed that he had arrived in China and was in quarantine," Kamel wrote.

However, Diab did not send the message, nor did he arrive in China, and Diab's family was "suspicious" of the language used in the text, according to Kamel.

A few days after Diab's disappearance, the Chinese TV channel called his family to ask about his whereabouts and why he did not travel to China for the work assignment. An official from EgyptAir confirmed to Diab's family that he did not board the flight to China on 6 September.

The London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper reported last week that Diab is held in a Cairo military prison. The authorities had accused him of "communicating with foreign organisations and bodies outside the country", charges which could amount to espionage.

According to Kamel, Diab is a 40-year-old father of four children with diabetes, and his health condition could turn critical if he does not get his medication.

Diab has travelled to China several times while working with Chinese TV. He also covered events held in embassies of Asian countries in Cairo, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Japan and South Korea, and knew their ambassadors in his capacity as a journalist.

Diab has published several stories from his travels to China on his Facebook page. He also has a photo with the Chinese ambassador to Cairo, Liao Liqiang.

Crackdown on journalists

Last week, Egyptian authorities arrested Manal Ajrama, the deputy editor of the state-run Radio and Television Magazine, from her home in Cairo.

She is currently under investigation for inciting, funding and belonging to a "terror group". Ajarma, 61, had recently written posts criticising Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have arrested hundreds of people, including journalists, as the country was readying to host the Cop27, which is held between 6 and 18 November.

The tight security grip over civil rights and freedoms had prompted the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg to boycott Cop27, while 13 winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature addressed world leaders in a letter to demand action over the estimated 60,000 political prisoners currently languishing in Egyptian jails.

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