Egypt's state-run al-Ahram newspaper condemns interior ministry

Tuesday 03-05-2016 12:27 PM

Journalists protest outside 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 3 (Aswat Masriya) - Egypt's main state-run newspaper al-Ahram condemned the interior ministry's "storming" or the "house of journalists" in what has been called an "unprecedented editorial" on Tuesday.

The editorial came as a response to the security forces' raid of the Press Syndicate's headquarters and arrest of two journalists who had been participating in a sit-in, Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka, on Sunday night.

Badr is the editor of Yanair gate, a news portal which is considered critical of the government, and Saqqa works for the same website.

Prosecution accused the two journalists of inciting protests, attempting to overthrow the regime and broadcasting false news with the aim of disturbing public peace.

The al-Ahram editorial piece called the ministry's raid of the syndicate "unacceptable," stating that "the interior ministry had made several mistakes in this past period, concluding with its unfortunate behavior against the right[s] of journalists and media workers."

It added that the interior ministry will "not succeed in its pernicious goals of shutting up mouths and repressing freedoms of opinion and expression," which are granted by the constitution. 

Al-Ahram's editorial surprised many analysts because the state-run paper has often run editorials manifesting support for the government. 

In 2010, al-Ahram attracted local and international criticism when it published a doctored photograph that featured Egypt's then-President Hosni Mubarak walking ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama and a number of other leaders at Middle East peace talks in Washington.

Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011. 

Hani Shukrallah, a former editor of a sister publication of al-Ahram, wrote on his Facebook account that this was "an unprecedented editorial" for al-Ahram.

"Journalists are not terrorists to have their syndicate stormed in such a manner," the al-Ahram editorial board wrote. 

On Sunday night, a number of journalists started a sit-in at the syndicate's headquarters to protest the interior ministry's "storming" of the building.

The syndicate has called for an emergency general assembly meeting on Wednesday. 

On its part, the interior ministry denied in a statement on Monday that security forces had stormed the building or used any kind of force, saying the two journalists Badr and Saqqa handed themselves over to the police “once they were informed of the arrest warrant" that had been issued for them.

The interior ministry has recently come under fire over a series of alleged violations and excessive use of force. 

Tensions between the ministry and another syndicate escalated in January over alleged police assaults against doctors. The syndicate convened an emergency general assembly meeting in February that turned into one of the largest protests against the government in the past two years.

More recently, in April, a low-ranking policeman shot dead a tea vendor and injured two more people, in the upscale suburban neighbourhood of Rehab, after a quarrel over the policeman's refusal to pay for a cup of tea.

Police brutality was one of the triggers of the January 25, 2011 uprising, sparked by protests that were held on Police Day in Egypt to draw attention to the use of excessive and often fatal force by police.  

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