The Interior Ministry accidentally sent a plan detailing its media strategy regarding the ongoing sit-in at the Journalists Syndicate to a number of journalists, who then posted it on social media.
The email was sent from the Interior Ministry’s public relations office, and appears to be an internal memo on how to respond publically to the ministry’s ongoing conflict with the syndicate. It was sent accidently, a security source told the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, which explained that the error occurred as a result of a technical issue that is currently being fixed by the ministry.
Journalists have been staging a sit-in on the steps of the syndicate since Sunday night, when plainclothes officers raided the syndicate and arrested journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka. The two journalists were previously summoned for questioning on charges of disseminating false information on Egypt’s sovereign transfer of the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.
The syndicate called for the dismissal of Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and the immediate release of Sakka, Badr and all journalists currently in detention.
The Interior Ministry memo was titled, “Media response to security raid on Journalists Syndicate headquarters in order to arrest journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud Sakka.”
It named a number of journalists who were “escalating” the conflict with the ministry, including syndicate head Yehia Qalash and syndicate council member Khaled al-Balshy, among others. Journalists were unlikely to back down, it explained, because they wanted to gain popularity ahead of syndicate elections.
A strong media campaign is needed to counter bad publicity over the incident, the memo asserted, adding that the ministry expects the media to rally in solidarity with the syndicate in a “vicious public campaign” against it, presenting a need for “security experts” to vocalize their support for the ministry’s position on popular TV programs.
Public statements should highlight that the ministry was carrying out orders from the Public Prosecution when they arrested Badr and Sakka, according to the memo, which stressed that the ministry “cannot retreat from its position now, because to retreat would mean a mistake had been made, and if there was one, who would be responsible and who would be held accountable?”
The ministry published a statement late Sunday denying that security personnel had forced their way into the the syndicate and claiming that only eight policemen had entered the building. It alleged that security forces adhered to legal procedures, and that Sakka and Badr went with them voluntarily.
The raid on the syndicate comes amid a difficult time for press freedom in Egypt. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a report in 2015 naming Egypt the second top jailer of journalists in the world, following China.
The raid also follows the arrest and detention of a number of journalists as they covered the April 25 protests against the transfer of the two islands to Saudi Arabia. The Journalists Syndicate presented an official complaint against the Interior Ministry protesting the violations against journalists during the demonstrations.