Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate has objected to the arrest of a news website editor for allegedly publishing false news, saying it sends a “negative” message.
It said in a statement on Monday that the arrest order violates press-regulation legislation and called for implementing the rule of law.
The prosecutor-general had ordered on Monday the arrest of Ibrahim Aref, editor-in-chief of online news site Al-Bayan, over “publishing false news that might disrupt the general security, terrorise people, and harm the public interest.”
The website had published an article on Monday claiming that six of the prosecutor’s deputies were assassinated while travelling on the Cairo-Suez highway.
In its statement, the syndicate, which sent a lawyer to attend investigations with Aref, said the law prevents detention in publishing cases.
It also said the prosecution should notify the syndicate of questioning any journalist, while in Aref’s case it only asked for information on his syndicate membership and arrested him directly.
The syndicate also said that confronting “exceptional circumstances” has to be “through implementing the rule of law and not violating it.” It said what happened had sent a “wrong message” to the people.
Several Egyptian media outlets have been facing state pressure over recent news reports.
Last week, privately owned daily newspaper Al-Watan was forced to stop the release of its Monday print edition over a front page story titled 'Seven [state and economic players] stronger than [President Abdel-Fattah] El-Sisi'. It also contained a column criticising security infiltration into the media. The paper reportedly had to adjust its content and reporting.
Last month, reports criticising police violence and the mistreatment of detainees were published in a number of local papers. The interior ministry filed cases against papers such as El-Dostour and Al-Masry Al-Youm and even arrested a reporter over features on police brutality.
In March, Al-Watan was also forced to change the content of one of its issues, after it had planned to run an investigative report suggesting that certain state institutions were implicated in tax evasion.