Homeland Security officers broke into the offices of the Yaqeen and Hassry news networks Saturday evening, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) reported the same day.
Yaqeen News Network (YNN) Manager Yehia Khalaf and four of the company’s journalists were arrested and security forces confiscated the networks’ cameras and laptops. The arrested were held in custody at Kasr Al-Nile police station pending investigation and are facing charges of working without a permit, according to AFTE’s report.
YNN issued a statement describing the break-in and the “arbitrary arrest” of its journalists and manager as a “glaring violation of freedom of expression”.
“They arrested everyone at the office and confiscated all the equipment,” said Hossam Hossary, a journalist working with YNN, adding that it would be difficult to continue working in such an environment.
Hossary said the network was established after the 2011 revolution and has since been providing independent news to an online audience and selling media content to several privately funded satellite channels.
Atef Al-Negmy, legal consultant for the Electronic Press Syndicate, said that since the law does not regulate online media, there are no permits needed for these networks. The only charge against the detainees, he said, was “impersonating journalists”, on the grounds that they do not work for a broadcast or print entity.
“Crackdown on freedom of expression and a tendency to monitor social networking website has already started with the draft of the terrorism law that is currently being discussed,” said Al-Negmy. “Responding to opinions with security solutions is a bad sign of what is to come.”
The Electronic Press Syndicate is still in the process of providing legal protection to online journalists and editors. The syndicate’s formation was approved by the Constituent Assembly, which had been tasked with amending the suspended 2012 Constitution into its current 2014 incarnation.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned what they called “the escalation plan by homeland security against the media and freedom of expression in Egypt.” ANHRI stated that such violations by homeland security are unconstitutional according to the 2014 constitution.
The Ministry of Interior refused to comment.
In December, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) rated Egypt in its annual report as the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists, following Syria and Iraq.
Following the military backed 3 July ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, security forces broke into the offices of Islamist satellite channels, an in August, those of Qatar based network Al-Jazeera. A number of journalists are in currently in custody, including senior Al-Jazeera staff, who are facing criminal charges.