WASHINGTON, D.C.—In response to charges filed against, and the extended detention of Egyptian photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada, who was arrested January 29 upon his return to Cairo, PEN America called for his immediate and unconditional release and for the U.S. Government to cite this case, among the many cases of unjust imprisonments in Egypt, in its continuous engagement with the government of General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. 

Ziada was detained at Cairo International Airport on January 29 upon his return to Egypt from Tunisia, where he had been on a fellowship to study journalism, according to local media reports. He was returning to Egypt to complete his application for membership in Egypt’s semi-governmental Journalists’ Syndicate, which provides official accreditation and legal support to journalists, according to his colleagues, who had petitioned the Syndicate on social media to approve his membership in his absence. Ziada was initially held incommunicado for two weeks until the charges—“spreading false news on social media”—were announced on February 16 and his detention extended for an additional two weeks.

“This is not the first time Egyptian authorities have sought to disturb and disrupt the work of this young professional journalist,” said PEN America Washington Director Thomas O. Melia.  “Even when, as in this case, Mr. Ziada is simply going about the normal activities of a working journalist in Egypt, he is being detained on spurious charges to prevent him from pursuing his education in Tunis, where he was planning to return a week after his arrival in Cairo. We call for the charges to be dropped and for his immediate release.”

Free expression is severely restricted in Egypt; dozens of writers and journalists are currently behind bars, and in its surveys of the state of global press freedom, Egypt has consistently been ranked “Not Free” by Freedom House. PEN America frequently advocates on behalf of writers, journalists, and artists detained, charged, or convicted for their speech and expression, including writer Ibrahim al-Husseini, poet and lyricist Galal El Behairy, and 2016 Freedom to Writer awardee and novelist Ahmed Naji


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]