Journalists stage sit-in, interior ministry denies using force

Monday 02-05-2016 12:37 PM

Journalists protest outside the press syndicate on May 2, 2016 after police raided the syndicate's headquarters and arrested two journalists on May 1. Photo by Mostafa Bassiouny

CAIRO, May 2 (Aswat Masriya) – A number of Egyptian journalists said on Sunday they have started a sit-in at the press syndicate’s headquarters to protest a police raid of the building, while the interior ministry denied using force in a statement on Monday.

“The undersigned journalists announce starting a sit-in at the syndicate’s headquarters … in protest to the security forces’ crime of storming the syndicate’s building and kidnapping two colleagues,” the journalists said in a statement posted on Facebook and bearing 30 signatures as of Monday morning.

“Journalists hold President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi responsible for this unprecedented crime, which is considered a flagrant assault on the freedom of the press, aimed at stopping journalists from exposing the regime’s crimes of killing, detaining and torturing thousands of Egyptians, and selling the islands of Tiran and Sanafir.”

On Apr. 15, thousands of protesters gathered in front of the press syndicate under the slogan "Friday of the land" to protest against Sisi’s decision to transfer control over the two strategic Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. By the end of the day, protesters announced their plans to demonstrate again on Apr. 25.  

Days before the Apr. 25 protests were due to take place, the interior ministry launched a campaign of mass arrests, arresting scores of people from cafes and from their homes.

Two journalists arrested

The syndicate’s board had said in an earlier statement on Sunday that security forces stormed the building to arrest two journalists accused by the general prosecution of “inciting protests” in violation of the assembly law, which was issued in 2013 and which human rights groups and defendants say practically bans protests.

The two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Saqqa, work for the Yanayir Gate news website. Badr is the portal’s editor in chief.  They had said earlier that prosecutors issued a warrant to arrest them and stormed their homes several times in search of them.

The interior ministry denied that security forced had stormed the building, saying the two journalists Badr and Saqqa handed themselves over to the police “once they were informed of the arrest warrant."

No force was used, says interior ministry

“The Ministry of Interior affirms that … no force of any kind was used in arresting” the two journalists and “all procedures took place in line with the law and to implement the general prosecution’s decision in this regard,” the ministry added in the statement it published Monday on its official Facebook page.

“The Ministry of Interior affirms that it values journalists and the patriotic role they play. It also stresses that it respects the freedom of opinion and expression.”

The journalists sitting in at their syndicate’s headquarters demand that the interior minister be dismissed and “all those responsible for those crimes be held accountable.”

They also demanded the release of fellow journalists jailed for their views or in cases related to freedom of speech.

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