The Ministry of Interior’s press office mistakenly sent an internal memo to journalists along with a press release, detailing what a non-conciliatory strategy in its management of the recent dispute with the Press Syndicate.
Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, the ministry sent a memo to journalists, titled “Handling of media’s claim that security agents stormed the Press Syndicate’s headquarters to apply the arrest warrant against journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud Al-Saqa”.
The document appears to have been intended to be disseminated among officers within the ministry.
In the memo, the ministry accuses head of the Press Syndicate Yehia Qalash and board members Khaled El-Balshy, Gamal Abdelrahim, Mohamed Abdel Qodous, and Hanan Fekry of intentionally escalating the situation to gain political favour, stating that the current protests will not stop until clear gains are made.
The memo states that the ministry expects media members to level a “ferocious” attack in solidarity with the syndicate, with each media outlet competing to show support. Anyone that deviates from this discourse will be accused of coordinating with security agencies, the report claims.
“The ministry’s stance should be unflinching, which was asserted in the ministry’s statement on the incident. It is not possible to retreat from this stance now as it would mean that a mistake took place and therefore someone would be responsible and someone should be held accountable,” the memo read.
Following the arrest of Badr and Al-Saqa, dozens of their fellow journalists launched a sit-in in the headquarters protesting what was described by Qalash as an “unprecedented crime”.
Journalists participating in the sit-in received the email while watching a prominent late-night talk show where former police general Farouk Al-Maqrahy was defending the storming of the syndicate based on the prosecution’s statement on the case.
The journalists told a Daily News Egypt reporter that they could see the ministry’s instructions enacted during the interview. The general’s defence, built around the prosecution statement was viewed by journalists as echo of the directives in the memo.
The Journalists Syndicate Secretary General Gamal Abdelrahim called the talk show and proceeded to criticize Al-Maqrahy, in what the journalists called a “roast.” The journalists applauded as Abdelrahim accused the former general of being a ministry’s unofficial spokesperson deployed to various TV shows.
A security source told state-run Al-Ahram media outlet on Tuesday that the dissemination of the email outside the Ministry of Interior’s offices “was a technical error”. An inquiry into the error is ongoing and the email address has been changed, the source added.