Foreign ministry critical of EU’s “unjust criticism” of Egypt’s press freedom 
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid. YOUM7 (archive)

CAIRO: Egypt has criticized the European Union statement, which blasted the country’s “broader limitations on freedom of expression and press freedom” following a recent indictment of press syndicate leaders over harboring fugitives and spreading false news, Youm7 quoted Thursday a Foreign Ministry (FM) statement.

The EU statement, released Wednesday by the European External Action Service (EEAS,) described the referral of three board members of the press syndicate to trial as a “worrying development,” as it comes after an unprecedented raid on the syndicate’s HQs in May.

“Egypt should act in accordance with its national and international commitments to promote and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms as guaranteed by its Constitution,” read the EU statement, calling on Egyptian authorities to review charges against those arrested for exercising freedom of expression.

In response, Egypt’s FM spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said the EU’s high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini is “not paying attention” to Egyptian humanitarian and living challenges the same way she does to address freedom of expression in the country.

He said that Mogherini needs to review the EU mission reports on Egypt to get an accurate assessment on the status of freedom of expression in the country, “before unjustly criticizing” it.

Abu Zeid also cited the previous assessments that demonstrated the “number of newspapers and magazines published daily in Egypt and talk shows that are daily criticizing the performance of the executive bodies and social media wide-spectrum discussions.”

“It would have been more useful if the European official has exerted a similar effort in stimulating states of the European Union to support the Egyptian government’s capacity to provide better services for citizens in education, medical care, food, shelter and safe life away from security threats and evils of terrorist groups,” continued the FM spokesperson in the statement.

At the end of his statement, Abu Zeid commented “it seems that Egyptian’s human rights, for some people, are no more than political rights and freedom of expression.”

On May 30, the Public prosecution referred the head of the Journalists Syndicate Yehia Qallash and two board members: Khaled el-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahman to rapid trial, scheduling their first court hearing on Saturday.

The trio was released on bail after hours of interrogation into accusations of hiding two journalists in the syndicate headquarters for a few days, while an arrest warrant was issued against them. The two allegedly “wanted” journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud el-Saqqa were arrested amid a police raid on the HQs on May 1.

The charge was denied by the three syndicate leaders, who demanded investigations to take place into the union’s complaints over the “HQs storming.”

Dozens of journalists in Egypt are landing behind bars, were summoned to investigations or banned from travel. The country has ranked the second worst jailer in 2015 according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ.)

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