Controversy has erupted over whether the police had the right to storm the Press Syndicate on Sunday evening when security forces arrested Yaniar Gate’s editor-in-chief Amr Badr and journalist Mahmoud-Al Saqa.
The Press Syndicate held an emergency meeting during the early hours of Monday morning. The syndicate’s council announced that the board would stage an indefinite strike until Minister of Interior Magdy Abdul Ghaffar is dismissed from his post.
“The Press Syndicate is not considered legally fortified like diplomatic institutions such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embassies,” legal expert Shawki El-Sayed told Daily News Egypt on Monday. “Therefore, the action executed by the Ministry of Interior is legal as a prosecution warrant was issued to arrest the two journalists,”
Badr and Al-Saqa were arrested based on an order from the prosecution, according to an official statement issued on the Ministry of Interior’s official Facebook page on Monday morning.
The prosecution accused the two of inciting protests and attempting to interfere with Egypt’s stability, the statement read.
The two journalists “surrendered willingly”, the statement read.
The ministry said that eight officers entered the syndicate to arrest them where they were “hiding”. Head of the Press Syndicate Yehia Qalash told Daily News Egypt that at least 50 officers stormed the syndicate’s headquarters and arrested the two journalists.
El-Sayed considers the storming of the Press Syndicate a poor political move.
Constitutional law professor at Ain Shams University Ramdan Batikha told Daily News Egypt on Monday: “The Press Syndicate has its own right to privacy. However, if there is a clear prosecution order or arrest warrant, the situation is different and is legally correct. The ministry clarified that it entered the syndicate according to a prosecution order, but the decision needed more political intelligence.”
According to Article 70 of the Press Syndicate’s internal regulations, police forces cannot inspect the syndicate except in the attendance of a member of the prosecution and its head.
Articles 77 and 76 in the 2014 Constitution state that storming any syndicate is a crime and its perpetrators must be punished according to the sanctions law.
Accordingly, law expert Essam El-Eslamboli denounced the incident and described it as a “barbaric” crime that violates Egyptian law.
The police’s storming of the syndicate was “savage” as well as illegal because the prosecution did not inform Press Syndicate officials about the arrest warrant beforehand, El-Eslamboli told Daily News Egypt on Monday.
The Press Syndicate should file a lawsuit against the Interior Ministry by notifying the prosecutor-general, he added.
“All syndicates in Egypt should show their solidarity with the Press Syndicate and file lawsuits against the Interior Ministry,” he clarified.
Journalist and member of National Council of Human Rights Mohamed Abdul Qudos told Daily News Egypt: “This is not the first violation committed by the Interior Ministry against journalists. No law would allow the storming of independent syndicates, even if there is prosecution warrant, they must first coordinate with syndicate officials.”
On a legal basis, the prosecution order is not enough to storm the Press Syndicate as they have to first inform the syndicate council of the warrant, according to Abdul Qudos.
In consequence, Abdul Qudos hopes the president will order the minister of interior’s dismissal, so that the security apparatus can turn a new page with journalists and settle unsolved cases, such as Regeni’s murder, which are caused by the current administration’s dereliction.