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Egypt journalists demand interior minister sacking

May 4, 2016

Hundreds of Egyptian journalists demanded the sacking of the interior minister in a raucous meeting at the Journalists’ Syndicate on Wednesday, after an unprecedented police raid to arrest two reporters.

Police cordoned off streets leading to the syndicate headquarters in downtown Cairo but allowed members to gather in and around the building for their general assembly, where they chanted “the interior ministry are thugs”.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has shown little tolerance for dissent, is facing a storm of criticism from the country’s once compliant media after police raided the syndicate on Sunday to arrest the two journalists.

The prosecution said it had issued warrants for their arrest on charges “relating to the peace and security of the nation” and imposed a gag order on the case.

On Wednesday, hundreds of reporters stood outside the syndicate headquarters, yelling: “Hold your head high, you’re a journalist.”

Inside, hundreds who packed a conference room roared their approval as an official read out a statement demanding Sisi apologise and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar be sacked.

The statement also demanded the release of jailed reporters.

Once feted as a hero by millions of Egyptians, Sisi, a former army chief, faces growing criticism over a crackdown once confined to Islamists that has spread to secular dissidents.

The former defence minister came to power after overthrowing his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, unleashing a crackdown that killed hundreds of Islamist protesters.

Police have since gone after secular and liberal dissidents who had supported Morsi’s overthrow but turned on Sisi.

In April, police arrested dozens of activists in the lead-up to a protest against a deal by Sisi to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia.

The protest, called for by a coalition of liberal and leftist groups, was quickly dispersed by police, who arrested several journalists in the process.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.