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Egypt journalists to hold meeting on Wednesday over 'syndicate storming' by police

Ahram Online , Tuesday 3 May 2016
Egyptian journalists
Egyptian journalists take part in a protest outside the Syndicate headquarters in Cairo on May 3, 2016 on the occasion of World Press Freedom day (AFP)
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Members of Egypt's Journalist Syndicate are expected to head on Wednesday to the syndicate headquarters in Cairo to attend an "urgent" general assembly meeting over the Sunday storming of the syndicate building by police to arrest two journalists.

The syndicate, which includes more than 8,000 registered journalists who work for state-owned and private news outlets, condemned the arrest of journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud El-Sakka on Sunday.

The prosecution ordered that the two be detained for 15 days pending investigation into charges of “plotting to overthrow the regime” and “spreading false news.”

Badr and El-Sakka, who run the progressive news website Yanair (January), were among dozens of activist and journalists who were ordered arrested a few days before the 25 April protests against the recent Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea island agreement.

According to the press syndicate, 46 journalists were arrested while covering the protests. Most of them were released a few hours later.

The arrest of Badr and El-Sakka has caused outrage among journalists and activists, who describe the move as "unprecedented and unconstitutional."

"We condemn this barbaric attack and this flagrant assault on our journalists and we call for the immediate sacking of the interior minister," the syndicate said in a statement on Monday.

However, the interior ministry attempted to defend its position on Monday by saying that "the two journalists are accused of inciting violation of the protest law, disrupting security and attempting to destabilise the country as they sought to use the syndicate building to avoid arrest."

The ministry explained that it received approval from the prosecution before entering the syndicate building and that all arrest procedures were legal.

However, syndicate chairman Yehia Qallash told CBC channel shortly after the arrest that "security forces should have informed the syndicate beforehand."

Press freedom

Journalists protested on the stairs of syndicate building on Tuesday, which marked World Press Freedom Day, while other activists were prevented from entering the syndicate's street by police, who insisted that only syndicate members were allowed to enter.

Among those prevented from entering were Mona Mina, board member of the Doctors Syndicate, and members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

The press syndicate released a statement earlier Tuesday titled "Our dignity is part of our freedom," detailing the state of journalism in Egypt.

"Currently, there are 29 Egyptian journalists in jail, either sentenced to prison or facing trial," the statement said.

"Unfortunately, the Committee to Protect Journalists has listed Egypt as second after China in the number of jailed journalists,” it said, adding that “security forces stormed the premises of many news outlets and 14 gag orders have been imposed in different cases.”

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