Egyptian journalists protest against arrests after ‘raid’ on union

Demonstrators call for dismissal of interior minister and sit-in at union HQ after detention of two journalists on Sunday

Egypt’s journalists’ union has called for the dismissal of the interior minister and an immediate sit-in at its headquarters in Cairo to protest against the arrest of two journalists on Sunday night.

After an emergency meeting in the early hours of Monday morning, the group called for an open-ended sit-in to run through World Press Freedom day on Tuesday and into Wednesday.


Dozens of people gathered on the steps of the union building on Monday, chanting “journalists are not terrorists”.

The union described the police’s entry into the building as a “raid by security forces whose blatant barbarism and aggression on the dignity of the press and journalists and their syndicate has surprised the journalistic community and the Egyptian people”.

Some union members said the intervention by security forces was heavy handed, involved dozens of officers and resulted in a security guard being injured.

Police denied they entered the building by force and said only eight officers were involvedThey also insisted that they were acting on an arrest warrant for the two journalists, who are accused of organising protests to destabilise the country. Unauthorised demonstrations are banned in Egypt and demonstrators subject to arrest.

“The ministry of interior affirms that it did not raid the syndicate or use any kind of force in arresting the two, who turned themselves in as soon as they were told of the arrest warrant,” the ministry said.

The two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud el-Sakka, for a website known as January Gate, which is critical of President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi’s government.

Police backed by army troops initially barricaded the entire area on Monday and prevented people from approaching the building, but they eventually lifted the blockade. Hundreds of uniformed and undercover police were still deployed across central Cairo to try to prevent any protests.

On Sunday, police prevented hundreds of workers from holding a meeting at the building to commemorate International Workers’ Day, prompting independent trade union leaders to urge the government to allow them freedom of assembly.

The journalists’ union has invited other trade union leaders to join the sit-in to denounce the “raid” and protest against restrictions on freedom of assembly for labour organisers. It said the move was illegal and violated its charter, which forbids police from entering the building without the presence of a union official,. It also urged police to end their “siege” of the building and stop preventing journalists from entering.

The journalists’ union building has been a rallying point for demonstrations in the past, and was blocked in a similar manner before planned anti-government protests last Monday.

It was there that about 2,000 demonstrators gathered last month to protest against Sisi’s decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Police fired teargas and arrested dozens to break up the protests, the first significant wave of street demonstrations since the former army chief became president in 2014.

A second round of mass protests over the issue planned for last Monday were stifled by a heavy security presence, with hundreds of arrests and only small flash mobs managing to assemble, drawing teargas and birdshot from riot police.

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