Mahmoud Hussein, an Al Jazeera producer who was arrested on Friday while on a family visit to Egypt, announced in a recorded video that he condemns the Qatari news channel for airing a documentary critical of the Egyptian military.
The privately owned Egyptian Sada al-Balad channel aired the footage of Hussein, who stated that once he learned of Al Jazeera’s plans to broadcast a documentary on the Egyptian military he and his Egyptian colleagues objected, but to no avail. He claimed: “This is part of the channel’s strategy to antagonize the Egyptian state.”
Hussein was arrested along with two of his brothers from their homes in Cairo on Friday. He had also been detained for 15 hours in Cairo International Airport upon his arrival on Tuesday.
A source close to the family told Mada Masr their whereabouts remain unknown, and their lawyers have been unable to reach them.
Hussein had professional broadcast tapes in his possession when he was arrested, which he said was at the request of a former financial manager of the now closed Cairo office.
The tapes were damaged when Al Jazeera’s main studio burned down in 2013, due to an electrical short circuit. The channel filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian government, although not more than 20 percent of equipment and archives were damaged, most of which was put into storage. Hussein claimed that he kept some of the damaged tapes, at the manager’s request, for repair at a later date.
However, according to the source, this was used as evidence that Hussein was in Egypt to carry out work for Al Jazeera.
Sada al-Balad quoted a security source who said that the Egyptian prosecution ordered his arrest on charges of belonging to a banned organization and seeking to overthrow the regime. The source speculated that his two brothers will be released soon. A source also told the privately owned Al-Bawaba news website that Hussein was arrested for conducting “inflammatory” film interviews over the past few days without the requisite permits.
However Yasser Abuhilala, managing director of Al Jazeera news, affirmed that Hussein was in Egypt to visit his family, and not for work purposes.
Last month the channel faced rebuke from Egyptian media for airing a documentary titled “The Soldiers: Stories of conscription in the Egyptian Armed Forces,” which details the conditions of conscripts in Egypt’s military.
The documentary includes testimonies of former military conscripts recounting the abuse they faced while enlisted. Many said that the training they received was futile and did not prepare them for combat. It also addressed the unpaid labor they carried out while in service.
Al Jazeera has been engaged in a standoff with Egyptian authorities since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, for adopting an editorial policy supportive of the former president and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The channel’s employees have since been banned from operating in Egypt, and the last affiliate channel, Mubasher Misr or “Live from Egypt,” was shut down in December 2014.
Egyptian authorities detained around 20 people working for Al Jazeera in December 2013, accusing all of them of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Among them were Al Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste. Greste was deported after spending 13 months in prison, while Fahmy and Mohamed were released by a presidential pardon after over 430 days in prison.
The channel’s Egypt reporter Abdallah al-Shamy was imprisoned for 10 months and was released after a five-month long hunger strike.