EU External Action spokesperson Catherine Ray (Photo: Courtesy of the European Commission website)
Egypt's foreign ministry has hit back at statements made by the spokesperson of the EU External Ection Service, Catherine Ray, which criticised "restrictions" on freedom of press and the jailing of journalists in Egypt.
Spokesperson of the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abu Zeid challenged the EU spokesperson to look closely at reports made by the delegation of the EU on the large number of newspapers that are published on a daily basis in Egypt.
On Tuesday, Ray issued a statement slamming the recent indictment of three Journalists' Syndicate leaders and their referral to court.
Ray described the prosecution of the union leaders as "a worrying development that follows the unprecedented raid of Egyptian security forces on the Journalists' Syndicate building earlier this month."
On Tuesday, Egyptian prosecutors charged the chairman of Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate, along with the syndicate's secretary general and undersecretary, with harbouring fugitives and spreading false news in the case of police storming of the union's headquarters on 1 May to arrest two wanted journalists.
The trio were referred to misdeameanour court. The first session in their trial is set for Saturday.
Ray charged that the indictments "reflect broader limitations on freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt."
"We call on the Egyptian authorities to review the charges against those arrested or prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and work to bring the laws regulating assembly and counter-terrorism into line with the Egyptian Constitution," the EU official said.
"I call on the spokesperson to follow [Egyptian] daily TV shows that criticise the performance of the authorities, as well as discussions that take place on social media between different segments of Egyptian society," Abu Zeid said.
"The foreign ministry was surprised that the high representative did not pay similar attention to the humanitarian and living challenges facing the Egyptian citizen," said Abu Zeid.
Abu Zeid said the EU should make efforts to support the Egyptian government in order to provide better services to Egyptian citizens.
The statement continued that this "reflects broader limitations on freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt."
The EU spokesperson also highlighted the recent crackdown on activists and human rights defenders.
"We call on the Egyptian authorities to review the charges against those arrested or prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and work to bring the laws regulating assembly and counter-terrorism into line with the Egyptian Constitution," read the statement.