CAIRO—Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish was arrested today while working his day job in the Egypt News Network offices. According to a lawyer from the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), policemen entered the office, seized two computers, and escorted Gawish outside. The official cause for the arrest remains unclear. However, a source from Cairo’s Security Directorate told Aswat Masriya that the Prosecutor General deemed Gawish’s drawings offensive to the state.
Islam Gawish runs the Facebook page al-Warqa, “The Paper,” which satirizes social and political issues through cartoons. It has garnered more than 1.5 million likes. In a statement posted on the page following Gawish’s arrest, al-Warqa announced a temporary suspension of all artwork.
Gawish’s lawyer, Mahmoud Osman, said the cartoonist is due to face prosecutors this evening, even though no official charges have been levied against him. Osman added what might seem to be an unequivocal fact: The Constitution guarantees artistic freedom. Article 67 stipulates, "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."
Twitter users expressed their deep distain at the arrest through pointed messages and hashtags in solidarity with Gawish. In a message on Twitter, leftist Egyptian lawyer Zyad Elelaimy criticized the regime as "afraid of mockery, a flower and a drawing."
Poet Abdul Rahman Yusuf sardonically noted that if Gawish were a "thief or a killer, they would have reconciled with him... Unfortunately, there is no reconciling with Islam Gaweesh's crime; his crime is called #freedom."