The Press Syndicate’s board held a press conference on Tuesday, one day before a highly anticipated general assembly to address security forces’ unprecedented storming of the syndicate’s headquarters on Sunday night.
“Although we wanted to celebrate World Press Freedom Day and to work on a better image for Egypt than the world’s second highest jailor of journalists, we are met by a security mentality which oppresses freedom,” head of the syndicate Yehia Qalash said during the conference.
Amid the Ministry of Interior’s attempts to impugn the syndicate’s contentions, Qalash reiterated that security forces stormed the syndicate’s headquarters and besieged the building, preventing anyone from entering and frightening those inside.
A police force of at least 40 officers stormed the syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo on Sunday night and arrested Yanair Gate’s editor-in-chief Amr Badr and journalist Mahmoud Al-Saqa.
The incident enraged the media community, leading to immediate calls for Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar to resign. Qalash was among the first to call for the minister to step down.
However, the Ministry of Interior was defiant as it has been since reiterating its claim that the two journalists “surrendered willingly” to a police force of eight officers who entered the syndicate to arrest them. The ministry added that Badr and Al-Saqa were ordered to be arrested after the prosecution accused them of inciting protest and attempting to distort the stability of the country. It was on the order of the prosecution that police entered the syndicate where they were “hiding,” the ministry has claimed.
On Monday, the syndicate filed a report to the prosecutor general decrying the storming of the syndicate and the harassment and search of journalists outside the headquarters, according to a statement from the syndicate.
“Although we were waiting for laws that prevent jailing journalists in publishing law cases and a decent press law, we are faced by the fact that 29 journalists are behind bars,” Qalash stated during his address.
He explained that syndicate board presented a list of 27 imprisoned journalists to the general assembly in March, adding that two additional journalists have been detained this month, referring to Al-Saqa and Badr.
He also said that syndicate notified the prosecutor general that 46 journalists had been assaulted, detained or had their equipment damaged on 25 April while covering the anti-government demonstrations.
Qalash renewed the call for Wednesday’s general assembly meeting which will address an escalation plan in the event that the syndicate’s demands for the ministry of interior’s resignation and the release of all detained journalists are not met.
Protests and security’s barricade continue
Outside the headquarters, security forces continued, for the third day in a row, to barricade the street leading to the syndicate, preventing anyone except members of the syndicate’s general assembly from reaching the headquarters.
Dozens of journalists who have gathered on the stairs of the headquarters continue to demand the release of Badr and Al-Saqa and chant against the Ministry of Interior.
A Doctors Syndicate delegation along with human rights lawyers and politicians attempted to join the protest to stand in solidarity with the journalists. However, security forces stopped the group at the police barricade, preventing them from approaching the syndicate, despite attempts from Press Syndicate leaders to convince security forces to concede access.
Mona Mina, the head of the Doctors Syndicate, announced doctors’ official support for journalists. In a statement, she condemned the breach of the Press Syndicate’s headquarters.
The Engineers Syndicate and Lawyers Syndicate also expressed solidarity with the Press Syndicate on Monday.
Additional reporting by Mahmoud Nasr and Adham Youssef