The Front to Defend Journalists (FDJ) condemned on Monday what it called “a crackdown on public freedom” under the war on terror, during a meeting in the Press Syndicate with families of imprisoned journalists, assuring that stability will be achieved if freedom and justice are prospering.
A statement was issued by the FDJ condemning “acts towards citizens under the name of fighting terrorism.” The FDJ also condemned imprisonment of journalists, the deterioration of their health conditions, and forbidding their families from visits.
FDJ member Khaled El-Balshy told Daily News Egypt that the health conditions of imprisoned journalists have been deteriorating. “The meeting was for our colleagues, where the families of imprisoned journalists called for the medical treatment and relocation of their relatives from Al-Aqrab prison,” he explained.
The prison is one of the country’s heavily secured penal institutions and includes several inmates who are charged or accused of terrorism-related cases.
“We were also planning during the meeting to decide on how we will celebrate and hold a protest simultaneously on 4 May, which will commemorate the first anniversary of last year’s general assembly—when we were protesting the storming of the syndicate,” El-Balshy added.
The FDJ was founded in 2014, to advocate for journalists’ rights against imprisonment and dismissal from newspapers, as well as calling for press freedom.
However, employees inside the syndicate allegedly did not allow the entrance of non-journalists during the meeting, while the chairs in the hallway were removed, allegedly on orders from the syndicate’s leadership. Member of the Press Syndicate Council Amr Badr described the incident as “unprecedented in the history of the syndicate.”
Badr, who was attending the meeting in solidarity with the FDJ, objected to the incident, describing it as a “serious issue in the manner of which the council deals with cases related to freedom [of press] and the status of our imprisoned colleagues.”
Secretary general of the Press Syndicate Council Hatem Zakareya admitted that he asked employees not to allow anyone to enter other than journalists as a response to complaints by journalists earlier this week.
“Two or three days ago, colleagues complained that some people who were not from the profession were staying at the syndicate’s cafeteria,” Zakareya told Daily News Egypt, adding that outsiders should not be allowed in.
Zakareya further clarified that the council is interested in the issue of imprisoned journalists. “We are working on the issue, and we are trying to help their families as much as we can. In fact, we achieved more progress than them [FDJ]. We are even negotiating with the Prosecutor General,” he said, expressing the council’s solidarity with Khaled El-Balshy.
On the other hand, El-Balshy denied Zakareya’s claims, adding that “even the banners of imprisoned journalists in the syndicate’s hallway were removed.” He added that the incident “reflects the council’s stance, not only on imprisoned journalists, but also on journalists who are not members of the syndicate.” He explained that the FDJ does not want to clash over this incident.