By Marwa Al-A’sar
Sixteen journalists started a two-day hunger strike Saturday at the Press Syndicate, calling for Protest Law amendments and the release of detainees and prisoners jailed under the controversial legislation.
“We generally call for setting free all prisoners of conscience who never got involved in any acts of violence…besides the other jailed activists,” journalist Amr Badr said. “We further demand that authorities put into force the law amendments proposed by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR).”
The NCHR has put forward three amendments: that protesting is a legitimate right; that in case a prior notice before a protest is rejected, the interior ministry, not the organisers, should appeal the decision before the administrative court; that those violating the law should only pay fines rather than face imprisonment.
On Monday, the appeal court will hold a new trial session for activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others sentenced in June this year to 15 years in prison.
The 25 activists were arrested while protesting against infamous law outside the Shura Council (the abolished upper house of parliament) in November 2013.
“On the trial day, we will assess the situation and decide the coming steps as most probably the court will then decide the date when the verdict will be issued,” Badr said.
The protest law, issued last November, restricts protests by imposing a minimum of a three-day notice to the interior ministry before holding demonstrations. Those who violate the law will face imprisonment and fines.
The hunger-strikers called on their colleagues to join them and start a campaign to collect the signatures of journalists at all media organizations to support their cause.
Journalists believe the Protest Law has been having a negative impact on their work.
“Many journalists were subjected to violence, some were injured and others killed, while reporting demonstrations,” Badr said.
“Clashes during protests were derived from that unjust law, which caused a real ordeal for field journalists…because the police deals violently with protesters who act against it,” he added.
Meanwhile, prominent publisher Mohamed Hashem started an open strike three days ago in solidarity with the detainees and the prisoners.
Law student and poet Ramy Yehia joined forces with Hashem who opened his Merit publishing house in downtown Cairo for others to join him.
“We will continue our hunger strike until this farce (the protest law) is over,” Hashem said. “We further call for immediately releasing all prisoners and detainees jailed under that unfair law.”
Hashem called on Egypt’s intellectuals “who never stopped dreaming of freedom, social justice and dignity” to show solidarity with the strikers.
“This is a peaceful way of protesting…that I think could influence the government,” Hashem said. “We must confront those practices assumed under the Protest Law and take a collective stance.”
A number of political groups and parties announced that Saturday is an escalation day for the campaign of the “Battle of Empty Stomachs”, launched earlier last week.
The Popular Current, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Al-Dostour Party, Al-Karama Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance had called on their members across Egypt to open their premises for new strikers who wish to join the campaign.
In addition to the 16 journalists, the Freedom for the Brave initiative for supporting detainees said in a statement on its Facebook page that the number of strikers reached 143 till Friday.
They have all officially informed the prosecutor general of their stance.