Mistakenly sent email reveals Egypt ministry's intent not to admit wrongdoing in press feud

Ahram Online , Tuesday 3 May 2016

Egyptian Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar (Al-Ahram)
Egyptian Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar (Al-Ahram)

An Egyptian interior ministry email was mistakenly sent to journalists on Tuesday stating that the ministry could not backtrack on its position regarding its ongoing feud with the press syndicate because it would have to admit wrongdoing.

The email, detailing what seemed to be a suggested plan on dealing with the situation, was sent due to a "technical error" to all journalists on the ministry's mailing list, an anonymous security source from inside the ministry was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram's Arabic website.

The email stated that "the ministry must have a steady position… backtracking suggests a mistake was made, and if there is a mistake, who is responsible for it and who will be held accountable?"

Tensions escalated between journalists and the police, who are under ministry authority, after security forces stormed the press syndicate in Cairo on Sunday and arrested two journalists who were staging a sit-in, a move described by syndicate head Yahia Qallash and many other journalists as "unprecedented" and "illegal."

The ministry email suggested that a number of police veterans should make TV appearances to stress that "sheltering fugitives" is illegal and that the press syndicate cannot be above the law.

A warrant was issued for the arrest of Amr Badr, editor-in-chief and founder of the Yanair (January) news portal, and journalist Mahmoud El-Sakka, who works for the same website, after they voiced their objection to Egypt's recently announced Red Sea island deal with Saudi Arabia.

The deal, which acknowledges Saudi sovereignty over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir and has stirred considerable controversy in Egypt, is yet to be approved by the Egyptian parliament.

On Monday, the prosecution ordered the detention of the two journalists for 15 days pending investigation into charges of "spreading false news", "inciting the public," and plotting to overthrow the regime.

Dozens of journalists have been staging protests at the syndicate over the past two days, mainly against the police storming the syndicate building, while a general assembly has been called for Wednesday.

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