Journalists gather outside the Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo ahead of an emergency general assembly meeting on May 4, 2016, in protest to a police raid on the syndicate and the arrest of two journalists. ASWAT MASRIYA
CAIRO, Oct 3 (Aswat Masriya) – Three journalists who were arrested last week on charges of spreading false news have been subjected to torture while in detention, according to their lawyer Fatma Serag.
Journalists Osama al-Bishbishi, Mohamed Hassan and Hamdy Mokhtar, who work with different privately-owned news outlets, were reportedly filming near the Journalists' Syndicate in Downtown Cairo when security forces arrested them on September 26.
Serag said the journalists told her they were subjected to torture by security forces.
“The defendants told prosecutors during the interrogation on September 27 that they were beaten and electrocuted while in custody,” Serag told Aswat Masriya.
Serag said that Mokhtar bore the most visible signs of torture, adding that an examination by Forensic Medical Authorities proved he had visible bruises on his body.
The journalists were ordered detained by Egypt’s prosecution for 15 days pending investigation after they were accused of belonging to a banned organisation and spreading false news, according to Head of the Journalists' Syndicate's Freedoms Committee Khaled al-Balshy.
“We can only provide them with legal support as the matter is currently in the hands of prosecution,” Balshy told Aswat Masriya.
Balshy himself is among a number of syndicate officials who are facing trial on charges of harboring fugitives inside the syndicate.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the arrests in a statement issued on September 30 and called on Egyptian authorities to immediately drop all charges against them.
"The delusion that jailing journalists on charges of reporting 'false news' for interviewing people on the street or photographing a protest will change reality is a false hope," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.
Torture in detention centres has been brought to the forefront by several local and international human rights organizations, but Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied claims of systematic torture and police brutality, referring to them as “individual violations.”
Egypt has also been facing wide scale criticism over reports about crackdown on freedom of expression and press freedom.
On May 1, security forces raided the Journalists' Syndicate’s building to arrest two journalists accused of inciting protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s decision to hand over control over two strategic Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. The two journalists were later released on bail.
Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid “Shawkan” is also among a number of journalists who have been jailed over the past three years. He has been in detention since he was arrested in August 2013 while he was covering the security forces’ dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in.