Following the arrest of dozens of journalists, the continued detention of several others and police harassment of media staff covering Monday’s protests, journalists openly protested against police intimidation and the Interior Ministry on Tuesday night.
Around 100 media members and activists gathered on the staircase outside the Journalists Syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo to stage a demonstration that they have called Dignity for Journalists. Defying a heavy security presence around the building, the protesters called for the release of all journalists still held in police custody.
A video of the demonstration depicts protesters denouncing censorship, police harassment and what they describe as “politically-motivated” assaults on journalists.
The privately owned al-Bedaiah newspaper reports protesters chanted, “Write it on the prison walls: The jailing of journalists is shameful and treacherous.” Other protesters are quoted by the privately owned al-Mashhad newspaper as calling out, “The police are thugs.”
Journalists Syndicate board member and chief editor of al-Bedaiah Khaled al-Balshy reported that a total of 43 journalists and media personnel were arrested or detained by security forces while covering Monday’s protests. Balshy added that police forces had released a majority of those detained. However, nine journalists remain in custody.
The Committee to Protect Journalists released a report on Tuesday stating 33 journalists had been arrested, while two remain in detention.
National journalists Basma Mostafa and the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper’s Ahmed al-Bardeeny and Mohamed Magdy were among those arrested on Monday, in addition to international journalists Jenna Le Bras, Stefan Weichert and Harald Hoff.
The protests in front of the syndicate were proceeded by an emergency meeting held earlier Tuesday after which the Journalists Syndicate announced it had filed an official complaint with the public prosecutor against Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and Cairo Security Directorate General Khaled Abdel Al.
In the complaint, the syndicate denounced security forces’ harassment of scores of journalists who were covering protests on Sinai Liberation Day.
Among the syndicate’s grievances is the allegation that police transport trucks deployed plain-clothes police officers, who attempted to storm the syndicate’s headquarters while denoucing the journalists inside as “traitors” and “foreign agents.” The security forces who had encircled the building and were refusing to allow journalists and members of the public to enter did nothing to prevent the attempted breach.
“Security forces…did not interfere to protect the building or prevent the disaster that may have occurred if these infiltrators succeeded in breaking into the building while journalists were still inside,” the syndicate stated in its press release.
In addition to condeming the arrest of several journalists, the syndicate alleged journalists faced unsubstantiated accusations from the Ministry of Interior.
An anonymous Journalists Syndicate member told Mada Masr that the arrest of journalists who were covering the demonstrations was one of its primary concerns. “This is something the [Journalists Syndicate’s] council believes goes against the press charter and the press code of honor,” he stated.
Another statement from the Journalists Syndicate stated that police actions were promoted by pro-regime media personalities justifying the harassment and arrest of other journalists, whom they had described as “politicized.”
The syndicate will hold a press conference on Thursday at noon at its headquarters during which journalists who were arrested on Monday will publically recount security force’s abuses.
Yesterday’s protests resulted in 168 arrests, according to the Freedom for the Brave campaign. The anti-government demonstrations were organized to protest Egypt’s transfer of sovereign control of the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, which has been called a sale by opponents of the agreement. Protesters also called for the release of those detained in a series of police raids that commenced Thursday night.
The April 25 demonstrations were met by a heavy security response, with the Ministry of Interior deploying security forces onto public streets to block many of the locations where demonstrators had planned to protest, including the Journalists Syndicate. Once demonstrations began, they were quickly dispersed as security forces fired tear gas into assembled crowds before chasing protesters from the area and arbitrarily arresting dozens.
Monday’s demonstrations were the second in a series against the islands’ transfer, among other protester demands. On April 15, more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Journalists Syndicate and in Talaat Harb Street to protest against the government.