Egypt faces backlash of condemnations against raid of Press Syndicate

Tuesday 03-05-2016 01:19 PM

Previous protest in front of the press syndicate, on Apr. 28, 2016. ASWAT MASRIYA / Asmaa Gamal

CAIRO, May 3 (Aswat Masriya) - Local and international groups, including the European Union, have condemned the Egyptian security forces' raid on the Press Syndicate and arrest of two journalists in what has been described as an "unprecedented" and "illegal" incident.

The EU said in a statement on Monday that "the storming of the Egyptian Press Syndicate's building by the Egyptian security forces on the 1st of May is a worrying development," adding that the move "continues a trend of restricting space for civil society and the freedom of expression."

Locally, other professional syndicates, including the lawyers' and doctors' syndicates, have strongly condemned the police. The doctors' syndicate, which has also had tensions with the interior ministry over alleged police assaults on doctors, announced that a delegation is heading to the journalists' syndicate "for support" against police "violations", and will be present for the journalists' emergency meeting.

The meeting is expected to be held Wednesday.

The lawyers' syndicate also expressed its support for the Press Syndicate and has delegated lawyers to be present with the arrested journalist, Amr Badr, during his investigations.

Both Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka were arrested during the interior ministry raid of their syndicate's headquarters. They work for the critical online news outlet Yanair Gate, and had been staging a sit-in inside the syndicate during the time of their arrest.

They had said in April that prosecutors issued a warrant to arrest them and stormed their homes several times.

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

Prosecutors ordered the arrest of nine people, including the two journalists, after police investigations implicated them in "publishing false news and rumours and exploiting them to incite protests through social media networks [Facebook] on Sinai Liberation Day on Apr. 25."

The Apr. 25 protests had been planned ahead in response to a decision by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to transfer control over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The decision stirred up controversy, with critics accusing Sisi of "selling Egypt" in return for Saudi aid.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also called for the "immediate release" of the two journalists, and demanded that the government "stop persecuting journalists for doing their jobs."

"Authorities in Egypt are abandoning all restraint in their efforts to intimidate and silence the press," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Programme Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. 

According to the CPJ 2015 census, Egypt was the second worst jailer of journalists in the world.

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 that 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. 

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