CAIRO: A Cairo prosecution has extended the pre-trial detention of two journalists by 15 days pending investigations over charges including: spreading false news, and attempting to overthrow the regime and disrupting the constitution.
Both Mahmoud el-Sakka and Amr Badr face accusations of protesting against the transfer of two Red Sea Islands to Saudi Arabia, and joining an outlawed group, according to Rights Lawyer Khaled Ali Facebook page.
Ali, who attended the investigations sessions, wrote that the journos only knew about the location of their prison two days ago, and that they were prevented from making phone calls, family visits, and entry of clothes, food and cigarettes.
He also quoted them as saying that they were threatened inside prison by “anonymous” police officers. Ali added that the defense team requested to photocopy the file of the lawsuit and to allow family and lawyers’ visits to the journalists.
El-Sakka and Badr were arrested earlier in May in a police raid at the headquarters of the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo, where a series of protests by journalists against the Interior Ministry have been staged ever since.
Their arrest came amid a police crackdown on activists following huge demonstrations in April to ensure the two relinquished islands are originally Egyptian, and to deny government claims they were put under Egypt’s control per the Saudi’s request in 1950.
During the islands protests, social media took the lead in reporting dozens of arrests, including journalists, in house and café raids, where detainees are now facing charges of illegal protesting.
A fury evolved between journalists and the Interior Ministry after the latter’s attack on the press syndicate HQ, stirring protests by thousands of journalists who demanded the dismissal of the Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and official presidential apology for the attack.
The picture of Abdel Ghaffar was run in “negative mode” and logos reading “Journalism is not a crime” were placed on many news websites, in compliance with decisions by a May 4 emergency assembly. Other independent unions announced solidarity with the Journalists syndicate.
On the other hand, a pro-government group, called “Front of Path Correction” called for confidence withdrawal of the syndicate’s board council; many journalists declared they will refrain from covering the group’s events.
Egypt was ranked the second worst jailer of journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) organization in 2015.
According to the advocate group Journalists Against Torture Observatory (JATO,) at least 720 violations were committed against media practitioners during 2015, with the Interior Ministry being responsible for 276 of the reported cases.
The violations included censorship, assault and damaging equipments.