Two members of the board of Egypt's journalists syndicate began on Monday an open-ended sit-in inside downtown Cairo’s press union to protest the mistreatment of their imprisoned colleagues, calling on more journalists to join the strike.
“We are against the slow death of our colleagues,” head of the syndicate’s freedom committee Khaled El-Balshy, who started the strike along with Mahmoud Kamel, told Ahram Online.
At least 30 journalists are currently imprisoned or detained pending trial on various criminal and misdemeanor charges.
El-Balshy stated that there are a number of violations being committed against jailed journalists, but what makes the situation critical is that “four colleagues’ lives are in danger.”
The veteran journalist and editor of Al-Bedaya website said that one of the imprisoned journalists needs an urgent heart surgery while another, Youssef Shaaban, has Hepatitis C.
The syndicate has called on jail authorities to provide adequate medications to Shabaan for the past 10 months without response.
He said that there are other long-term demands, such as allowing the syndicate to visit the jailed journalists and eventually a pardon.
“Our minimum demand is medical treatment,” El-Balshy added.
El-Balshy added that some imprisoned journalists started a hunger strike, but their numbers are unknown as they are allowed limited visits.
On Saturday, the Journalists Syndicate released a press statement detailing the mistreatment of journalists inside Al-Aqrab prison, which is reportedly notorious for abuse of inmates.
The syndicate called for an official inquiry into the violations against imprisoned journalists.
It also demanded more humane jail conditions for imprisoned colleagues, appropriate medical care and family visits.
The syndicate will hold an emergency general assembly meeting on 4 March to press these demands, and discuss attacks on press freedoms.
The Egyptian government has repeatedly denied that journalists who are behind bars have been arrested or detained as a result of their journalistic work.
The authorities have also denied what rights activists describe as systematic violations against inmates inside Egypt's prisons.