The Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) organised a conference Monday to express solidarity with imprisoned journalists and condemn violations against press freedom.
The conference was attended by several lawyers, activists and families of detained journalists.
HMLC’s conference criticised the crackdown on journalists and violations against their rights as described in the constitution. Restrictions on press freedom have seen an increase in recent years, as journalists continue to face difficulty amid increased security crackdowns and a general climate of intolerant to journalists’ rights.
The regime is applying restrictions on, and arresting, journalists attempting to publish the truth, said the HMLC.
Journalist Ahmed Abdel Aziz, the conference host, spoke about the violations committed against journalists inside prisons and condemned journalists’ detention, adding that their arrest violates the constitution.
The government has violated 16 articles in the constitution, which guarantee press freedom and the rights of journalists, said Abdel Aziz.
HMLC lawyer Tamer Ali noted that in 2015, Egypt became the worst country after China in restricting press freedom and jailing journalists.
Ali and Hani Sadek, a lawyer defending imprisoned journalist Sabry Anwar, also discussed Anwar’s case, a journalist for the independent newspaper El-Badil who was arrested from his home in Damietta late February and whose whereabouts remain unknown.
Since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013, 12 journalists have been killed and 150 detained, according to HMLC. Sixty have been released, while 90 remain in detention.
Other lawyers and journalists spoke at the conference about the current state of the press in Egypt, and demanded the immediate release of imprisoned journalists, expressing their support for the press freedom. Previously detained journalists narrated their experiences in prison, discussing the abuse they encountered inside the prison and how they were arrested.
Families of the detained journalists complained about their relatives’ deteriorating health, highlighting that the conditions of detention centres do not meet health standards, which causes the spread of disease and infection.
Rofayda Al-Safty, the wife of Akhbar Al-Youm journalist Mohamed El-Batawi, said at the conference: “When I was preparing to visit my husband today [on Monday], I received news that he has a court session, but we were not informed of this.”
During the surprise court session, however, a lawyer did not attend, and El-Batawi was returned back to prison and told he would be presented to the prosecution Tuesday.
Regarding El-Batawi’s medical status, Al-Safty said her husband has a bacterial skin infection that he developed while in detention, and he is not being offered any treatment or medical care.
“When I demanded from the prison administration immediate treatment for him, they gave him epilepsy medicine, which isn’t related to his health concern,” she said.
Similarly, Hesham Gaafar’s wife, Manar Al-Tantawy, told Daily News Egypt that her husband is supposed to undergo prostate surgery within days. According to Al-Tantawy, he was not allowed to use the bathroom for 42 days which has caused urine retention and blood and prostate problems.
She also added that Gaafar sustained a bacterial infection due to the lack ventilation in the prison, which causes an increase in bacteria inside prison cells.