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Egypt police cordon off Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo

4 May 2016 15:25



Egyptian riot police have cordoned off the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo amid an intensifying standoff following the arrest of two journalists.

A large number of policemen were deployed to limit access to the syndicate’s building in the capital.

The privately owned al-Maqaal daily published a cartoon depicting police beating up a young man holding up a newspaper as a shield.

Reacting to the siege, dozens of journalists also held a massive demonstration outside the building to denounce the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for stifling the press freedom. The angry journalists chanted slogans such as, “Journalism is not a crime!” calling for the dismissal of Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar.

Yahia Qalash, the head of the syndicate who was at the demonstration, said the gathering was to defend the rights of journalists.

“We are here today to defend journalism,” Qalash said, adding, “We are defending the rights and the dignity of journalists.”

In an earlier statement, Qalash denounced “unprecedented searches of the offices of information providers” and the “practice of censorship before publication.”

On May 1, police sparked media and opposition outrage by storming the syndicate building in an unprecedented raid and arresting two reporters, Amr Badr and Mahmud el-Sakka, on allegations of incitement to protest.

The syndicate denounced the police entry into its building as a “raid by security forces whose blatant barbarism and aggression on the dignity of the press and journalists and their syndicate has surprised the journalistic community and the Egyptian people.”

Egyptian journalists take part in a protest outside the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo on May 3, 2016, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. (AFP photo)

The syndicate has been under police attention since last month, when over 2,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the building to protest the government’s decision to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia.

Conceding the sovereignty of the strategic islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the regime in Riyadh provoked massive protests in Cairo.

Human rights activists accuse President Sisi of running an ultra-authoritarian regime that has violently suppressed all opposition since Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, was ousted in a 2013 military coup.

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