An international media rights group has urged Egypt and Saudi Arabia to release all detained journalists “to avoid a catastrophe before it is too late.”

The appeal by Reporters Without Borders group (RSF) came in the wake of an Egyptian journalist’s death after he caught coronavirus in prison, and a Saudi journalist’s death just weeks after release.

The non-profit organization in statement said “the deaths of Mohamed Monir and Saleh al-Shehi during the pandemic speak to the urgency of releasing journalists so that they avoid a tragic fate.”

Egypt’s Mohamed Monir and Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al-Shehi died on July 13 and 19 respectively, shortly after the authorities suddenly released them from prison “without prior warning.”

According to the NGO that safeguards right to freedom of information, Monir was arrested and charged with “spreading fake news,” while al-Shehi was serving a five-year sentence for talking about “corruption within Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite.”

The statement urged both the countries to seize the occasion of Eid al-Adha, and release all journalists from “overcrowded prisons.”

Both Egypt and KSA are currently the world’s biggest jailers of journalists. The RSF has identified 30 detained journalists in Egypt, and 33 in Saudi Arabia.

Egypt is ranked 166th out of 180 in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index. Saudi Arabia is on 170.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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