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Hands off Egyptian journalists’ union, says IFJ

23 November 2016

The IFJ urged the Egyptian government to "keep its hands off" after a court sentenced the head of the Egyptian journalists’ union (EJS) and 2 board members to a 2-year jail sentence.

EJS president Yehia Qalash and board members, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim received a 2-year jail sentence on 19 November after being convicted of harbouring journalists wanted by the police and spreading false information. The journalists' union said it would appeal against the verdict.

The IFJ expressed its grave concerns over the escalation of attacks against the EJS, its leaders and press freedom in Egypt and called on the government to take all necessary steps to sustain independent journalism as well as journalists’ social and professional rights.

On 26 September, Egyptian journalists Hamdy Mokhtar, Mohamed Hassan and Osama al-Bishbishi were arrested and tortured over terrorism charges.

On 2 May, police raided the EJS headquarters in Cairo and arrested reporters Omar Badr and Mahmoud al Saqa for "inciting protests" against the authorities. In addition, EJS president Yahya Qallash, vice president Khalid el Balshi and general secretary Gamal Abdulrahim were questioned for 14 hours about allegations of "harbouring fugitives in the union´s offices" which the IFJ has strongly condemned.

The EJS has criticised the government and the ministry of the interior for their practice of arresting journalists and detaining them for lengthy periods, often without due judicial process. It claims that some of them have been released without charges after years of detention. According to the union there are currently 29 journalists in prison, some of them having been detained for years.

Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said:

"This a government campaign against the very idea of an independent journalists’ union.
"This latest attack against the EJS’ leaders challenges once more the principle of an independent journalists’ union and its main priority of defending journalists’ social and professional rights.
"We call on Egyptian journalists to rally around their union in defence of their rights and independent journalism and we ask the Egyptian government to keep its hands off the EJS and its members."

EJS will convene an emergency meeting of its members today to discuss the current situation and their responses to the latest developments. 

Tags: , egypt, egyptian journalists syndicate, journalists arrested, journalists prosecuted, ifj