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Egypt's Journalists Syndicate protests in renewed call for release of jailed journalists

Ahram Online , Wednesday 9 Dec 2015
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Dozens of journalists, activists and family members of jailed journalists held a protest Wednesday in front of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate in Cairo to call for the release and provision of medical treatment for detained journalists, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

Those attending the protest, which was organised by the Journalists Syndicate's Freedoms Committee, chanted against the "ongoing detention" of journalists by the state. 

Khaled El-Balshy, the head of the Freedoms Committee, said that the protest is one of the first steps in a campaign titled "We will provide medical care and ensure their release, journalism is not a crime." 

He added that the campaign, which was launched Monday by the syndicate, will continue until "all detained journalists are released."

According to El-Balshy, there are currently 32 journalists – not all syndicate members – detained and jailed in various cases, including 18 in cases related to journalism. Around eight of these detainees are in dire need of medical care, El-Balshy told Ahram Online.

Al-Bedaya website journalist Youssef Shaaban, who is serving a 15-month sentence for attacking a police station in Alexandria in 2013, has been denied his medicine, according to his lawyers and family.

Meanwhile, state-owned Akhbar Al-Youm journalist Mohamed Saber El-Battawy, who has been detained since June 2015 over accusations of belonging to an illegal group – the Muslim Brotherhood – has contracted skin diseases due to "poor conditions in jail," according to his advocates.

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abo Zeid, better known as Shawkan, who has spent 850 days in detention since August 2013, suffers from Hepatitis C.

Shawkan's first trial session is set for 12 December. He has been in pre-trial detention for over two years after being arrested during the violent dispersal dispersal of the sit-in supporting ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi at Cairo's Rabaa El-Adaweya in August 2013.

In August of this year, the Journalists Syndicate filed several complaints with the country's top prosecutor demanding the release of Shawkan and calling for better healthcare for Youssef Shaaban and Magdy Hussein.

Hussein, who was editor-in-chief of Al-Shaab (The People) newspaper and a member of the now-banned pro-Morsi Islamist Coalition to Support Legitimacy, was arrested in July 2014 on violence-related charges. 

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has repeatedly said there are no journalists in Egyptian jails for crimes related to publishing.

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