Egypt’s journalists rage blown up in interior ministry face

Over 2,000 members of Egypt’s press syndicate gathered on Wednesday at the syndicate headquarters in Cairo for an emergency meeting to respond to the recent storming of the HQ by police, as security forces surrounded the building from all directions and regime supporters hurled insults at members attending the meeting.

The syndicate issued a statement at the meeting outlining a set of demands on the government including the dismissal of interior minister Madgy Abdel-Ghaffar and the release of journalists jailed in cases related to freedom of expression, as well as instructions for news outlets on how to support these demands.

On the other hand, some local newspapers have started on Wednesday afternoon publishing the image of Egypt’s interior minister in negative, instead of positive, as a form of protest.

The move by the papers and websites comes an hour after an emergency assembly meeting of the Press Syndicate called for the dismissal of the minister as part of a set of demands on the government by the union in response to the storming of its headquarters by security forces earlier this week.

Police forces and counter-protesters holding up images of the country’s president blocked the main street leading to the syndicate building, making it extremely difficult for journalists to gain access to the union’s HQ from that direction.

Journalists were forced to take another route to access the building and were required to show syndicate ID cards at three police checkpoints in the area.

The police and counter-protesters gathered on both sides of the street where the syndicate is located, leaving the participating journalists 300 metres in which to convene.

The scene witnessed intermittent protest chants, mostly against the police.

A vertical black banner was displayed at the front of the syndicate building with the words “journalism is not a crime,” while participants held placards saying “I am a journalist, not a terrorist” and “freedom for the brave.”

Vociferous chants such as “the interior [ministry] are thugs”, “hold your head high, you are Egyptian” also resounded.

While police mostly asked syndicate members for IDs as they headed towards the gathering, some of the counter-protesters, who arrived in buses and trucks and used loud speakers blasting music, harassed journalists at the scene.

Participating journalists say they were met with insults and obscene gestures and were called “traitors” and “agents.”

The deal, which acknowledges Saudi sovereignty over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, has stirred major controversy in Egypt, though it is yet to be approved by parliament.

Badr and El-Sakka, who face criminal charges and are detained pending investigation, were among dozens of activists and journalists who were ordered arrested a few days before the 25 April protests against the island agreement.

According to the press syndicate, 46 journalists were arrested while covering the protests, with most being released after a few hours.

The Sunday storming of the press syndicate prompted union leaders to call on members to attend an emergency general assembly meeting today.

source: Ahram Online