In a chilling reminder of the obstacles free speech still faces around the world, Egyptian political cartoonist Magdy El Shafee was arrested on Friday, and despite many reports that he was freed, the latest news is that he is still being held. El Shafee is a contributor to World War 3 Illustrated, and they reported on his arrest:
Magdy El Shafee was arrested in Cairo Friday night. He has been charged, along with 38 other protestors arrested, with clearly trumped up charges, including possession of molotov cocktails, attempted murder of police officers, and destroying public property. According multiple witnesses, El Shafee had gone down to try to stop the clashes and was arrested at random, while walking through the square, because he didn’t run away from the cops. He has been taken to the infamous Tora Prison for 4 days of interrogation.
El Shafee appeared before the court at the Qasr el Nil on Saturday afternoon, and was transferred to Tora Prison for four days of interrogation. El Shafee faces a preposterous list of seven accusations, including everything from demonstrating, threatening to use force, acquiring an unlicensed weapon, carrying weapons and ammunition, the attempted murder of three police officers, assaulting a public officer, and destroying private and public facilities.
El Shafee had previously been arrested under former president Hosni Mubarak for his graphic novel Metro, a vivid portrait of poverty and corruption under Mubarak’s rule. Metro was immediately banned upon its publication in January 2008 on the grounds of “offending public morals”; police raided the Malameh publishing house, confiscated all copies of the book, and banned Malameh from printing further copies. El-Shafee as well as his publisher, Mohamed El Sharkawi, were both arrested and ultimately fined 5,000 LE. Even after Mubarak was overthrown, the graphic novel has only recently been made available in Arabic in Egypt.
Last month I wrote about a WW3 event that included a Skype interview with another Egyptian cartoonist and muralist, Ganzeer, who mentioned the oppressive nature of life in Cairo, the difficulty in maintaining free speech, and the dangers to cartoonists that follow in such a situation.
The best place to monitor El Shafee’s situation is his Facebook page and the Twitter tag #freemagdy.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.