Egypt

Email blunder reveals Interior Ministry plan to deal with journalist crisis.

On Monday night, the Interior Ministry sent out an accidental email to their press list detailing their plan to deal with the Journalists' Syndicate crisis.

The email detailed a plan to incriminate the head of the syndicate for "harboring two convicted criminals who needed to be brought to justice." The email also underlined a pressing need to deal with three members of the syndicate council who may be "against the ministry." The ministry followed this email with another email saying that they were facing "technical difficulties that are now being repaired." 

Sources from inside the ministry told Al-Masry Al-Youm on Tuesday that the message was sent from the ministry's media department to Interior Minister Magdy Abd Al-Ghaffar. They also confirm that the incident is now being heavily investigated in collaboration with the PR and Media departments at the ministry.  

According to the sources, the ministry's alleged line of defense is that the memo was merely an evaluation of how they will deal with the syndicate's accusations that the ministry breached security and treated its journalists with injustice. The ministry's press statement reflects that they have made mistakes for which they must now recover themselves.

The erroneous email from the ministry read, "Now that the situation has been blown up by syndicate's side, regarding allegations that security forces raided their headquarters to arrest the journalists AmrBadr and Mahmoud Al Sakka, there are a few points that need to be stressed: this escalation is a deliberate action carried out by the head of the syndicate, Yehya Al Qalash, and several members of the syndicate council who oppose the ministry, specifically Khaled Al Balshy, GamalAbd Al Reheem, Mohamed Abd Al Kodous, HananFikry and others. Their agenda is to achieve electoral gains. It seems that they are not backing down from their stand until they achieve their goals."

The email continued, "We have to anticipate that a vicious media campaign against the Interior Ministry is imminent — media outlets will act in solidarity with the syndicate. We emphasize that there is no way to stop this campaign — even now, media outlets are racing to work in tandem with the syndicate, in celebration of freedoms of speech and expression, and those who don't join this campaign will be accused of collaboration with security forces (a.k.a. the enemy.) The ministry must hold its stand on this issue; the same stand it took in the press statement. It is essential not to retreat, because any retreat will be seen as a mistake and if there's a mistake then there will have to be someone held accountable for it."

The email also said, "The ministry's stance media-wise in the coming period must be that the actions of the head of the syndicate and the various members of his council were against the law, and that harboring a convicted criminal when there is a warrant out for his arrest issued by the General Prosecution is considered a crime, and requires the submission of the head of the syndicate and his collaborators.

"We need to utilize the General Prosecution's press release regarding the incident to solidify the ministry's stance and to confirm that tracking down the two criminals and arresting them was carried out according to the General Prosecution's authority, seeing as the journalists were convicted of trying to incite chaos in the nation. It is also necessary to understand that any defense on the issue from the ministry's side will be faced with rejection and doubt from media outlets and for this reason we need to resort to security experts, such as retired generals.

"We then need to co-ordinate with some television programs to interview our experts so they can describe the ministry's point of view on the incident. We need to choose these experts extremely carefully because they need to be able to handle the attack they are most likely to be subjected to during their interviews. They will also need to be given all the necessary information regarding the charges against the journalists, in collaboration with our PR, media and national security sectors." 

ِThe email emphasized that, "It is crucial to gain the favor of public opinion immediately in order to combat the syndicate's stance. This can be achieved through promoting the idea that the syndicate and its members want to be above the law and will not answer for their crimes. We should also point out that there is a portion of the public that supports the ministry's stance and is critical of the syndicate. This portion must be utilized to gain more support from the wider public. Here we must differentiate between what the public thinks and what is being said by media outlets."

Upon discovering their mistake, the ministry quickly sent another email negating the first one saying, "Dear Journalists, we will be sending our statements and our news from this email: moiegypt@gmail.com, in light of the fact that our usual email, center@moi.gov.eg is facing technical difficulties that are currently being dealt with."

The Prosecution has ruled that Badr and Al Sakka are to be held in custody for 15 days pending further investigation. Syndicate members and dozens of journalists are conducting an open-ended strike until the Interior Minister is removed.
 

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