Egyptian political cartoonist Islam Gawish was arrested in Cairo on Sunday, January 31, at his office at the Egyptian News Network for publishing a cartoon critical of the government, according to a posting on the cartoonist’s popular Facebook page Al-Waraqah (The Paper). The cartoonist’s lawyer, in a statement to the Associated Press, reiterated that the only charge against Gawish at the time of his arrest was “publishing drawings that are offensive to the regime.”
A pronouncement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry later stated that Islam Gawish was arrested for running a website ‘without permission from the Ministry of Telecommunications’ and for the possession of pirated software.
Gawish has now been released according to reports in Al-Masry Al-Youm, with a prosecution attorney quoted saying Gawish was arrested by mistake and that he was facing no charges.
A joint statement from eight opposition parties in support of Gawish decried the government crackdown on the regime’s critics, stating: “We warn about the consequences of a return to the police state and the repression of freedoms . . . There has to be an end for targeting people with free opinions, who wish for nothing but living in a country that respects freedom of opinion and expression, according to the constitution.”
Article 67 of Egypt’s constitution states that “freedom of artistic and literary creativity is guaranteed. The state shall encourage arts and literature, sponsor creative artists and writers and protect their productions, and provide the means necessary for achieving this end.”
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information issued a press release protesting the cartoonist’s arrest: “The apprehension of Islam Gawish is part of the large series of raids on media, human rights, and cultural centers. A few weeks ago, the security forces closed Rawabet Theater, Townhouse Gallery, and Merit Publishing House. The security bodies also precluded the scientist Essam Heggy from giving a lecture . . . The list of violations is too long and endless. Seemingly, we have a government that does not want to hear [any voice] except its voice, does not see but itself, which constitutes a danger to the right to freedom of opinion and the peaceful expression of it in Egypt.”