The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) condemned Monday the interrogation and charging of Ali El-Sayed, editor-in-chief of independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm and journalist Ahmed Youssef.
The pair were charged with “endangering social peace and spreading false news” by the prosecution.
The association described the incident as a clear violation of press freedom, and demanded the Egyptian authorities abide by the articles of the 2014 constitution ensuring the freedom and safety of journalists.
El-Sayed and Youssef were released on an EGP 2,000 bail on 16 October, after being interrogated by the state security apparatus for over 14 hours, said AFTE.
“The interrogations took place in spite of the newspaper commitment to follow the prosecution orders and not to publish any banned material,” the association said.
The association has described the journalists’ treatment as an attempt to push journalists to identify sources, which is illegal under articles 7 and 8 of the Egyptian Press Law.
State Security investigations were based on a lawsuit filed by the legal affairs assistant to the Interior Minister accusing Al-Masry Al-Youm of leaking legal documents.
The media gag was imposed after the newspaper’s announcement that it would publish documents about the case.
Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat sent a letter to the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) chief Essam Al-Amir ordering that publication of all information, whether in a visual or audio form, be prevented.
The media gag order came on 14 October, with the gag in place until all investigations relating to the case are done.
In June 2012, presidential elections took place, with former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed Morsi the two candidates. Morsi won the elections with just over 50% of the votes.
A similar incident, also condemned by human rights organisation Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), took place on 1 October, in which a whole page of the newspaper’s issue was censored by “governmental officials”.
El-Sayed told Daily News Egypt that the issue was sent to the printers where it was confiscated, and an entire interview was cut.
The censored page should have included an interview with a former agent in the General Intelligence Directorate about special espionage operations of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency.
“The whole issue was out [published], except for the mentioned page. The authorities said the topic was controversial,” said El Sayed.
ANHRI confirmed the incident and described it as an obvious intervention by the police authorities in press affairs.