The head of Egyptian press syndicate Yehia Kalash speaks at the syndicate after a Cairo court sentenced him to prison on 19 Nov, 2016 (Photo: Zeinab El-Gundy)
Egypt’s press syndicate has called on all journalists to join an open meeting to be held on Wednesday to discuss “the repercussions of the latest crisis” involving the recent prison sentence against the syndicate head, as well as pressing issues facing journalists, mainly the “new media law and the impact of the recent economic decisions on journalistic institutions.”
On Saturday¸ the head of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate Yehia Kalash and two other syndicate board members — Gamal Abdel-Reheem and Khaled El-Balshy — were sentenced to two years in prison for "harbouring fugitives" inside the syndicate's headquarters.
The three union leaders were accused in April by prosecutors of harbouring journalists Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr, who were wanted on charges of inciting violence ahead of the 25 April protests against the Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea maritime border agreement.
Badr and El-Sakka were arrested in a police raid on the union's headquarters on 1 May.
The verdict against the union leaders, which was issued in absentia earlier this week after the trio abstained from appearing in court, can still be appealed, and the court has set bail at EGP 10,000 for each defendant.
A Cairo court has set 25 December to hear an appeal by the defendants against the verdict.
The syndicate thanked in its Tuesday statement all those who expressed solidarity and those that volunteered to collect donations to cover the bail.
However, the syndicate said it refuses to "politicise" the case, adding that it would cover the bail from its budget.
On Tuesday, the Doctors Syndicate released a statement in solidarity with the press syndicate and "its stand in support of freedoms."
A statement signed by several public figures, rights and labour activists as well as political groups also expressed solidarity with the press syndicate head and the two board members following this week's sentence.
The statement criticised the court sentence against the journalists, saying that it aims to end the syndicate's "struggle for a free press, its role in revealing corruption and supporting the people in their struggle for freedom and justice."
The over 200 signatories also expressed their solidarity with the Doctors Syndicate, whose deputy chairman Mona Mina recently came under attack for statements criticising hygiene measures at public hospitals. They also defended public transportation workers that have been facing prison detention for threatening to strike.