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Detention of Egypt's press syndicate head an 'attack on media': Amnesty

Journalists Syndicate Head Yehia Kalash, along with two others, is facing charges of 'spreading false news' and harbouring fugitives

Ahram Online , Monday 30 May 2016
Yehia Qalash
Journalists carry Yehia Kalash, head of the Egyptian press syndicate, during a protest against restrictions on the press and to demand the release of detained journalists, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt May 4, 2016 (Reuters)

The detention of Egypt's Journalists Syndicate head Yehia Kalash is "an alarming setback for freedom of expression and the most brazen attack on the media the country witnessed in decades," rights group Amnesty International said in a Monday statement.

On Monday, Kalash, along with the syndicate's General-Secretary Gamal Abdel-Reheem and the Undersecretary Khaled El-Balshy, refused to pay an LE10,000 bail.

The trio is facing charges of "spreading false news" by publishing that over 40 policemen stormed the syndicate headquarters in Cairo on 1 May to arrest journalists Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr.

They are also facing charges of sheltering El-Sakka and Badr from authorities.

“The arrest of key media figures at the press syndicate signals a dangerous escalation of the Egyptian authorities’ draconian clampdown on freedom of expression,” Amnesty's statement read.

The prosecution is scheduled to review the trio's case in a matter of hours, and either release them without bail or order a detention pending investigation. They are currently being held at Qasr El-Nile Police Station in downtown Cairo.

Both El-Sakka and Badr were also arrested for "spreading false news."

The two journalists, who run the progressive 25 January news portal, were among many ordered arrested ahead of the 25 April protests against the Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea island maritime border agreement.

The prosecution previously imposed a media gag order on the storming of the syndicate.

“The authorities must also drop charges against the two journalists who were detained at the press syndicate and investigate the circumstances of the raid,” Amnesty said.

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