Egypt should probe assaults on journalists, not silence press: watchdog

A US-based watchdog said Egyptian authorities should not support efforts to “silence the press” after the public prosecutor banned media coverage of a case in which two journalists were arrested while sitting in at the press syndicate's headquarters.

“Authorities should open an investigation into the increasing assaults on journalists instead of supporting efforts to intimidate and silence the press,” Sherif Mansour, MENA Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told Aswat Masriya. 

Egyptian security forces had raided the press syndicate’s headquarters on Sunday and arrested two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Saqqa, who had been sitting in at the building. 

Badr is the editor of Yanair Gate, a news portal which is considered critical of the government, and Saqqa works for the same website. 

Prosecution had issued a warrant for their arrest on charges of inciting protests, attempting to overthrow the regime and broadcasting false news with the aim of disturbing public peace. 

The two journalists had said earlier that the police stormed their homes several times in search of them, before they were eventually arrested at the press syndicate’s headquarters. 

“We are renewing calls on Egyptian autherities to immediately release Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka and all journalists behind bars for doing their jobs,” CPJ’s Mansour said. 

Tthe police raid on the syndicate’s headquarters, the arrest of the journalists and the gagging order have sparked a wave of backlash against the Egyptian authorities. 

The syndicate filed an official complaint with the prosecution against the interior minister over the security forces’ “storming” of the headquarters. The syndicate's head Yahia Qallash told a press conference on Tuesday that the syndicate demands that the interior minister be dismissed.

The interior ministry, however, denied earlier on Monday storming the building or using force to arrest the two journalists, saying that Badr and Saqqa handed themselves over to the police “once they were informed of the arrest warrant" that had been issued for them. 

Similarly, the prosecution said on Tuesday in a statement, in which it also declared that a gagging order was issued, that the police were only executing the law and abiding by the constitution when they arrested Badr and Saqqa.

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