Journalists’ Syndicate warns against ‘disastrous future’ for press freedom in Egypt

Published October 17th, 2016 - 10:00 GMT
Egyptian journalists take part in a protest outside the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo on May 3, 2016, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. (AFP/File)
Egyptian journalists take part in a protest outside the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo on May 3, 2016, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. (AFP/File)

Constant violations against journalists foreshadow a "disastrous" future for press freedom in Egypt, head of Journalists' Syndicate's Freedoms Committee said on Tuesday.

Dozens of journalists held a press conference at the syndicate's headquarters on Tuesday to launch the "Freedom for the Pen" campaign.

The campaign calls for the release of detained journalists and aims to highlight the deteriorated detention conditions in prisons that threaten the life of journalists.

"Stopping the publication of an article, pulling an issue from newsstands, arresting and torturing journalists happens continuously. These incidents portends a disastrous future for press and freedoms in Egypt," head of the Freedoms Committee Khaled El-Balshy said.

Balshy himself, as well as the head of the syndicate, is among a number of syndicate officials who are facing trial on charges of harboring fugitives inside the syndicate.

"The fact that the head of the press syndicate is facing trial explains the restrictions faced by journalists in Egypt," Balshy added.

Journalist Youssef Shaaban, who was released in August after spending 15 months in prison for storming an Alexandria police station, said that the campaign aims to "put pressure on prison authorities, raise awareness regarding the health conditions of jailed journalists and improve their detention conditions."

Shaaban added that the syndicate's previous campaign "We will medically treat them and release them" has proven successful and led to allowing several journalists access to healthcare after they were initially denied medication.

The journalists attending the press conference celebrated the birthday of jailed photojournalists Mahmoud Abu Zeid Shawkan, who turned 29 on October 10.

This marked Shawkan's fourth consecutive birthday in jail as he has been in detention since he was arrested in August 2013 while covering the security forces' dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in.

Egypt has been facing wide scale criticism over reports about crackdown on freedom of expression and press freedom.

Three journalists were arrested late in September on charges of spreading false news and have been subjected to torture while in detention, according to their lawyer Fatma Serag.

On May 1, security forces raided the Journalists' Syndicate's building to arrest two journalists accused of inciting protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's decision to hand over control over two strategic Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. The two journalists were later released on bail.


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