The Press Syndicate’s council called for a second emergency meeting Thursday to follow Tuesday’s meeting held in the wake of an arrest warrant issued against prominent member and head of syndicate’s Freedoms’ Committee Khaled El-Balshy.
The syndicate said it received with “great infuriation” the news about El-Balshy’s arrest warrant issued by the general prosecution authorities.
“[The warrant] is based on an official report filed by the Interior Ministry, which fabricated accusations against El-Balshy, that [are strongly indicative of] a crackdown targeting our colleague for his known role in defending freedoms, in particular freedom of the press,” the syndicate said in a statement Tuesday.
The charges against El-Balshy, who is the editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Bedaiah news website, include incitement to topple the regime and disturb the peace.
According to Al-Bedaiah, the lawsuit is filed by the deputy minister of interior for legal affairs and it is based on videos of the journalist and screenshots from his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“[We] reject this type of security ambush against El-Balshy,” the syndicate added, further announcing that El-Balshy will not present himself to authorities for any interrogations unless protocols are properly followed”.
El-Balshy had demonstrated goodwill by telling Daily News Egypt Tuesday, prior to the syndicate’s assembly, that he intended to present himself to the authorities, despite the risk of detaining him.
Journalists who are members of the Press Syndicate cannot be summoned without prior notification to the syndicate, which in turn should provide guarantees for their personal and legal safety, as stipulated by syndicate law.
Following its meeting Tuesday, the syndicate also called on the ministry to drop charges and “put an end to troublesome acts”, clearly implying that security bodies are seeking to “imprison and censor journalists”.
Six political parties, 22 NGOs, and 92 public figures issued a statement on Tuesday expressing their solidarity with El-Balshy, stating that the arrest warrant was “nothing more than revenge against El-Balshy, who defends human rights and freedoms”.
Those figures included at least 14 members of the supreme committee of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), more than 10 human rights’ lawyers, as well as many researchers, politicians, journalists and two parliamentary members.
Meanwhile, El-Balshy has affirmed that he will continue resisting oppressive practices, whereby Al-Bedaiah published several reports on the deteriorating conditions of journalists in prisons.
On Wednesday, Al-Bedaiah published a new report on the status of journalists in prison, documented by the syndicate’s Freedoms Committee. The report is the latest 2016 update, and lists 25 journalists in detention.
Of the 25 journalists, 11 are members of the syndicate, including Youssef Shaaban, Mohamed El-Battawy, Mahmoud Mostafa, Hisham Gaafar, Hany Salah El-Din, Ahmeed Sabeea, Hassan El-Kabani, Ibrahim Al-Darawy, and Magdy Hussein. A rally is scheduled in support of Magdy Hussein on Wednesday afternoon at the syndicate demanding his release.
Meanwhile, the 14 journalists who are not members of syndicate are Mahmoud Abou Zeid ‘Shawkan’, Abdel Rahmman Abdel Salam, Ahmed Fouad, Omar Abdel Maqsoud, Mohamed Abdul Moneim, Samhy Abdullah, Abdullah Al-Fakharany, Mohamed El-Adly, Hussein Abdul Halim, Emad Abou Zeid, Mohamed Salah, Abdul Rahman Shahin, and Ahmed Bayoumi, Sabri Anwar.