Egypt’s press syndicate has called the interior ministry’s threat of legal action against Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) newspaper over articles critical of the police "an attempt by executive bodies to clamp down on press freedom."
The ministry said on Sunday it would take legal action against AMAY and accused the newspaper of publishing the reports to settle scores following an interior ministry complaint against the paper in October.
"Instead of using its legal right to respond, which is the way to respect freedom of speech, the ministry resorted to a complaint it filed against the newspaper and its editor in an attempt to suggest the issue was a personal score," the syndicate said.
The syndicate – known in Egypt as "the citadel of freedoms" – accused the ministry of increasing its rate of filing complaints against journalists as a way of silencing them instead of investigating the incidents and practices published by the paper.
AMAY published a seven-page series of reports on Sunday titled ‘The Police: Martyrs and Sins… Holes in the Official Uniform’ highlighting what it described as the “coercive and arrogant” practices of police, but also highlighted police efforts in fighting terrorism.
The reports addressed torture in police stations and prisons, rape, bribery, and complaints the ministry uses illiterate conscripts for “total obedience of orders” in the Central Security Forces. It also includes interviews with people saying the police have become more brutal in their treatment of the public than before the January 2011 uprising.
The syndicate said it would file a legal memo with the general prosecutor's office urging him to uphold the guarantees provided by the law in publishing cases inorder to support public freedoms and especially freedom of expression "to all citizens and not only journalists."
Egyptian authorities occasionally confiscate editions of newspapers critical of the state. In March, Local newspaper Al-Watan was forced to omit an article claiming corruption in several state bodies - including the interior ministry.
The ministry said it will sue AMAY over publishing of "unprofessional" content.
Egyptian police have a long history of using excessive violence against civilians. Local and international rights organisations have repeatedly called for a reform in its practices and to hold those involved accountable.
The interior ministry has maintained, however, that it is committed to protecting human rights and implementing the rule of law.