Mohamed Ibrahim, interior minister of Egypt (Photo: Reuters)
The editor-in-chief of Egypt's largest private newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm and one of the paper's reporters have been questioned by state security prosecutors over an unpublished report claiming the country's 2012 presidential election was rigged.
The complaint against Ali El-Sayyed, the editor, and Ahmed Youssef, the reporter, was originally filed by the interior ministry – the first time the ministry, which manages the country's police, has brought a complaint against a newspaper before it published information.
The accusations include disrupting the peace, spreading false information and embezzling documents from Egypt's General Prosecution, in addition to "publishing news on a court case".
After a 14-hour investigation, the prosecutors released El-SAyyed and Ali on LE2000 bail pending the completion of the inquiry.
On Tuesday, the paper announced its intentions to publish documents the next day that it said proved the 2012 poll had been rigged in order to bring Mohamed Morsi to power.
Egypt's top prosecutor responded by issuing a gag order against releasing information on the issue and Al-Masry Al-Youm obliged by not publishing the exclusive report.
El-Sayyed lashed out at the interior ministry's intervention in the paper on Thursday.
"The interior ministry's complaint sets a dangerous precedent as it constrains freedom of the press by an executive authority," he told Al-Masry Al-Youm on Thursday.
"The ministry's action represents an attempt to close mouths, shut down newspapers, place restrictions on freedom of expression and threatens us with the return of repressive practices that Egyptians revolted against."
The editor-in-chief further said that the issue is purely a "judicial matter", as the paper had agreed to abide by a publication ban issued by the general prosecution, and as such the ministry had over-stepped its authority.
Morsi narrowly beat former Hosni Mubarak-era premier Ahmed Shafiq in a run-off vote in the 2012 election. Shafiq appealed the decision, alleging the election was rigged.
The Supreme Presidential Elections Commission, the judicial entity that supervised the vote, rejected the appeal in June of that year.
Morsi was ousted in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule.
He is currently being tried for inciting violence, murder and espionage.