Spokespersons for both the European Union and the US State Department released statements on Monday regarding the security raid on Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate.
Plainclothes officers stormed the syndicate Sunday night and arrested journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud Sakka, who had been summoned for questioning on charges of disseminating false information in their coverage of Egypt’s sovereign transfer of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia this month.
Dozens of journalists gathered on the steps of the syndicate to protest the raid and arrests on Sunday night. The syndicate demanded the removal of Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and an apology from the presidency in response to the incident, as well as the immediate release of all detained journalists.
The European Union statement condemned the storming of the syndicate, calling it “a worrying development” that “continues a trend of restricting space for civil society and the freedom of expression, as manifested by the high number of arrests following the April protests.”
The statement called on the Egyptian state to release all individuals detained for expressing their opinion, adding that laws on freedom of assembly should be modified to comply with Egypt’s Constitution. It also emphasized the importance of press freedom and freedom of assembly.
US State Department spokesperson John Kirby also commented on the issue Monday, stating he was “aware” of the incident and that the State Department continues “to urge Egypt’s leadership to uphold the people’s basic rights to freedom of expression, which we believe, again, is the basis of a democratic society.”
When asked if the US had brought up the issue with Egyptian authorities, Kirby responded, “We continue to have very frank discussions with the government of Egypt over these very issues … I don’t have any specific diplomatic conversations to read out to you, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t routinely have discussions about our concerns there.”
The raid on the syndicate follows the arrest and detention of a number of journalists covering the April 25 protests against the transfer of the two islands to Saudi Arabia. The syndicate presented an official complaint against the Interior Ministry condemning the treatment of journalists during the demonstrations.