Journalists Syndicate head Mamdouh al-Wali said on Thursday that he has assigned the syndicate's lawyer, Sayed Abu Zeid, to seek the release of privately owned Al-Dostour newspaper editor Islam Afifi, who is currently awaiting a 16 September trial date in prison.
Wali told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he had contacted Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki regarding Afifi’s release, saying the editor’s health issues should preclude imprisonment.
The syndicate will not accept any violations of journalists’ freedom of speech, Wali continued, adding that this case is a reproduction of the former regime’s restriction of freedoms.
Abu Zeid told Al-Masry Al-Youm that there were errors in the prosecutor’s investigations into Afifi’s case and therefore the decision to try him before the criminal court is void. The prosecutors did not obey the law stipulating that a syndicate board member must attend interrogations of a defendant who is a member of the Journalists Syndicate, Abu Zeid explained.
Karem Mahmoud, secretary general of the syndicate, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that "what is happening is a fierce attack on the freedom of the press, which is to be expected in light a repressive group’s coming to power."
He added that the Journalists Syndicate would not allow any restrictions on the press and would fight this case with every means possible.
There are "clear attempts to suppress freedom of the press and expression,” Mahmoud said.
"I fear that we start to disbelieve in justice and freedoms,” Afifi stated when asked to comment on his incarceration.
Afifi told Al-Masry Al-Youm that following the court ruling, he was shocked because of the lack of justice, which he has long defended with his fellow journalists over the past years.
"We do not know who these people are claiming that the newspaper [Al-Dostour] is causing the panic of citizens around Egypt. This is a kind of cheap hypocrisy that has completely ended with the end of Mubarak's era,” Afifi continued.
Political activist Wael Ghoneim said that the charge of insulting the president is "loose,” noting that some articles of the law on publishing crimes are very old and were drafted dozens of years back.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm