The union of journalists in Egypt has slammed the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for stifling the press in what the union describes as a war against journalism.
“This year we mark World Press Freedom Day with Egypt down in all the international rankings,” union chief Yahya Qalash told a press conference Tuesday, ahead of a union general meeting due on Wednesday.
“Instead of seeing the government take concrete measures to overcome this situation, we are surprised to see it escalating the war against journalism and journalists,” he said on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
Qalash denounced “unprecedented searches of the offices of information providers” and the “practice of censorship before publication.”
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.
On May 1, police sparked media and opposition outrage by storming the union building in an unprecedented raid and arresting two reporters, Amr Badr and Mahmud el-Sakka, on allegations of incitement to protest.
Journalists began a three-day sit-in protest on May 1 inside the union over the arrests while police closed off the streets leading to the building the day after.
Journalist and Dostour Party spokesman, Khaled Dawoud said the police raid had “violated the laws organizing the entry to the headquarters of the press syndicate.”
“Article number 70 of our internal laws states that in case police wants to enter the building, they have to seek the permit of the head of the press syndicate and he has to be present or to send a representative,” he said.
“This is unprecedented, no president or prime minister or interior minister has ever dared to do something like this,” said Mahmoud Kamel, a member of the syndicate board. Under the law only a prosecutor is allowed to search the union in the presence of its chairman or deputy, he added.
Kamel said more than 40 policemen raided the building, adding that a security guard sustained injuries in the eye as police raided the press syndicate office.