The Freedoms Committee of the Press Syndicate has launched a campaign calling for the release of detained journalists and the improvement of their conditions in prisons, amid an “escalation of abuse against journalists.”
Under the title “We will treat them, we will get them out… Journalism is not a crime” the syndicate called for the release of the journalists, while condemning the long-standing ban on visits, and the deteriorating health conditions of a large number of the detained journalists.
The committee decided in a meeting on Thursday to hold weekly activities aiming to shed light on the status of the detained journalists. “We agreed with the syndicate’s council to arrange a series of escalatory actions, including marches to the Prosecutor General, an open-ended sit-in, and conferences inside the syndicate to expose the abuse faced by the detained colleagues,” the committee said.
The committee is set to announce the schedule and details of the campaign in a conference on Monday.
All possible legal means will be taken to push for the release of the detained journalists, according to the committee. On Saturday, they will file a complaint to the Prosecutor General demanding the release of the detained journalists, while renewing the complaints related to the health conditions of the detainees.
The committee will also demand the release of defendants in the Rabaa Operations Room case after the court ordered a retrial of the case on Thursday. Thirteen journalists and media workers, along with others, were originally sentenced to life imprisonment, while one was sentenced to death for plotting unrest, spreading false news and leading an operations room in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Warning of the return of “fabricated charges” against journalists, the committee announced there are over 32 journalists currently imprisoned, including 18 journalists detained over press charges. Some of the journalists were arrested while on duty, according to the committee.
Press syndicate member Hisham Gaafar, renowned journalist Hossam Bahgat and researcher and investigative journalist Ismail Alexandrani are among the journalists who were detained recently. The committee said the current situation requires a serious effort to halt such arrests, condemning the continued pursuit of journalists on charges relating to their work.
The lawyers of Alexandrani, who was detained for 15 days pending investigations after being accused of belonging to an outlawed group and publishing false news, said Thursday they were denied entrance to the prosecution building where he was scheduled to be interrogated.
Alexandrani’s arrest is not unique; in November, renowned journalist and activist Hossam Bahgat was released by the military prosecution after two days of arrest and interrogation over an investigative report he wrote for independent news website Mada Masr.
Further, Gaafar, director of the Mada media organisation (not associated with Mada Masr) has also been detained since late October after security personnel stormed into the Mada headquarters. He faces charges of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as international bribery related charges.