An Egyptian doctor who volunteered to help to treat wounded civilians in the Gaza Strip has been arrested after he inadvertently exposed the country distributing what appears to be fake news with his online posts.
Orthopaedic surgeon Hossam El-Din Shaaban, who works at Cairo’s Qasr Al-Aini Hospital, was part of a team of medics making its way to the self-governing Palestinian territory on a humanitarian mission.
Egyptian officials had claimed that hundreds of Palestinian wounded were being moved to the area where the doctor was based, which caused him to express surprise, as he had not seen any.
The army made the arrest as he travelled to the border, alleging that the doctor had “disclosed military secrets” on Twitter as he documented his journey.
In fact, what he had done was reveal that information being put out by Egypt was not exactly the same as what he was experiencing on the ground.
Shaaban’s journey took him through the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, where the army and security forces are in conflict with Islamic State militants.
In a tweet, he described being accompanied by “a security force consisting of two signal-jamming cars, three armoured vehicles, a jeep, and an explosive detection unit”.
He later mentioned after meeting the Egyptian assistant minister of health that he was surprised at reports that “hundreds of injured Palestinians were taken across the border to Egypt for treatment”.
In a tweet, he wrote: “No injured person has passed through the crossing”.
The tweet infuriated the Egyptians who ordered his arrest for disclosing “military secrets”.
Egypt is currently ranked 166 out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
The organisation reports that the Egyptian government “has imposed a complete clampdown on free speech”.
It also reports that “more and more people are being arrested because of their social media posts” and that “(j)ournalists and human rights defenders are…banned from much of the Sinai region and from providing independent coverage of any military operation”.
It is unclear what will happen to Shaaban, although Reporters Without Borders reports that many such ‘suspects’ receive lengthy jail terms or languish in pre-trial detention for years.
Egypt is one of just six Arab countries to maintain full diplomatic relations with Israel and was the first of the six to establish them, in 1979.
Story By: William McGee, Sub-Editor: James King, Agency: Newsflash