Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Egypt diplomat calls sub-Saharan Africans 'dogs & slaves'

African envoys say Egyptian called sub-Saharan Africa 'dogs and slaves'

Tue May 31, 2016

George Obulutsa and Lin Noueihed 

Egypt has become embroiled in a dispute with African diplomats after they accused an Egyptian official of referring to "dogs and slaves" in remarks about sub-Saharan Africa at a United Nations conference in Nairobi.

The diplomats sent a formal complaint to Kenya's foreign ministry after the alleged remark at the U.N. Environmental Assembly last week, Yvonne Khamati, chairwoman of the African Diplomatic Corps Technical Committee, said on Tuesday.

Egypt's foreign ministry said it had no evidence of any such remarks by a Cairo official and would investigate, adding that it rejected "flimsy accusations against the Egyptian state and people that cast doubt on its African identity."

Khamati, a Kenyan diplomat who wrote the letter, said the remark was made following a disagreement on resolutions involving Gaza.

"During our consultations with Egypt, the head of the Egyptian delegation and current President of AMCEN dismissed our concerns by informing that they would speak in their sovereign capacity and to that extent, referred to Sub-Saharan Africa as DOGS AND SLAVES, in Arabic," said the letter dated May 29.

The term AMCEN in the letter, which has been circulated widely on social media, refers to the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment.

In its statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said: "It is completely unacceptable to make the mistake of generalizing and making flimsy accusations against the Egyptian state and people that cast doubt on its African identity."

It asked Cairo's embassy in Nairobi to "a strongly worded statement ... expressing Egypt’s rejection and censure for this breach of authority" by Khamati and demanded to see the official minutes of the meeting.

The incident looked likely to add to tensions Egypt has had with its sub-Saharan neighbors, with which it has been at odds in the past over how River Nile waters should be shared by the countries it passes through.

*Photo courtesy of UNEA

3 chiefs of Journalists Syndicate charged with harboring wanted colleagues

Egypt: Head of press syndicate detained in unprecedented crackdown on media freedom

30 May 2016

The arrest today of the head of the Egyptian Press Syndicate and two colleagues is an alarming setback for freedom of expression and the most brazen attack on the media the country witnessed in decades, said Amnesty International.

Yahia Qalash, head of Press Syndicate and senior board members Khaled El-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Reheem were summoned for questioning on 29 May by the public prosecution. After 13 hours of questioning, the three men were charged with ‘harbouring suspects against whom an arrest warrant has been issued’ and ‘publishing false news, which threatens public peace, related to their arrest.’ The prosecution ordered that the three men be put in custody, with bail set at 10,000 Egyptian pounds (USD$1,123), which they have refused to pay.

“The arrest of key media figures at the Press Syndicate signals a dangerous escalation of the Egyptian authorities’ draconian clampdown on freedom of expression and demonstrates the extreme measures the authorities are prepared to take in order to tighten their iron grip on power,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

Successive Egyptian governments have attempted to control the media and impose restrictions on journalists but on 1 May up to 40 heavily armed members of the National Security agency stormed the Press Syndicate for the first time since it was established in 1941. They attacked journalists, beating security guards and detained two journalists Amro Badr and Mahmoud Al-Saqqa.

They are being held in Tora prison and have been charged with forming an illegal group with the aim of overthrowing the government, inciting protests and publishing false news, and belonging to the April 6 Movement, a leading youth group that was instrumental in organizing protests in 2011.

Days later on 4 May, thousands of journalists gathered outside the Syndicate to make a series of demands, including calling for the dismissal of Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, the release of detained and imprisoned journalists, as well as demanding further measures to strengthen the protection of journalists.

“By prosecuting senior members of the Press Syndicate the authorities are clearly attempting to punish them for speaking out against the government and to send a strong message to intimidate all journalists into silence. The authorities must immediately order their release and drop the charges against them,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

Under Egyptian law, permission from the Public Prosecutor is required in order to search the Press Syndicate premises and any search must be carried out in the presence of the head of the Syndicate or other senior management.

“The storming of the Press Syndicate earlier this month was unprecedented. It is the most brazen attack on the media the country has seen in decades. The Egyptian authorities appear to be prepared to breach their own laws in their chilling attempt to crush all signs of dissent,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

“The authorities must also drop charges against the two journalists who were detained at the Press Syndicate and investigate the circumstances of the raid.”

At least 20 journalists are currently behind bars in Egypt imprisoned carrying out their legitimate journalistic work, according to the Egyptian Press Syndicate.

*Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Military prosecutors jail 13 protesting shipyard workers, 13 arrest warrants issued

Mada Masr
Military prosecutors summon 26 workers from Alexandria Shipyard Company for questioning over instigating strikes

Monday, May 30, 2016

Jano Charbel 

Military prosecutors in Alexandria have summoned 26 civilian workers, engineers and administrators from the Alexandria Shipyard Company for questioning on charges of instigating strikes and obstructing production. Thirteen of the workers were remanded into detention for 15 days on Thursday pending investigations.

The arrested workers’ family members wept outside the military prosecutor’s office in the Bolokly district of East Alexandria as their relatives were transported to detention, the privately owned Al-Mesryoon news portal reported on Monday.

The 13 workers who are not in detention but were summoned for questioning have not yet handed themselves over to the authorities, according to Mohamed Awad, a lawyer from the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic rights who is representing the 26 workers.

A majority of the nearly 2,500 employees at the Alexandria Shipyard Company staged a sit-in at the Port of Alexandria from May 22-23 in protest against the non-payment of the national monthly minimum wage, overdue profit-shares and their annual Ramadan bonuses. The workers further demanded health insurance and the dismissal of their company’s chief administrator.

The chief administrators of the state-owned Alexandria Shipyard Company have largely refused the workers’ demands. Military police units and Central Security Forces were deployed in and around the company to intimidate the protesting workers. On May 24, security forces imposed a lockout on the shipyard, bringing all production and services to a halt.

Military prosecutors could charge the workers with violating of Article 124 of the Penal Code, which stipulates prison terms ranging from three months to one year and/or fines of LE100-500 for civil servants who deliberately refrain from performing their duties at work. However, this article appears to be at odds with the Constitution, which guarantees “the right to peaceful strike.”

Awad believes the potential charges are baseless, as the workers “did not engage in any strike action.” Production and services at the state-owned company were shut down by the management’s executive decision to impose a lockout, not the workers’ protest actions, the lawyer argued.

On May 25, the workers even filed a complaint against the management’s lockout at the nearby Mina al-Basal Police Station, Awad added.

Awad explained that the workers are facing military prosecution because the Alexandria Shipyard Company is owned by the Defense Ministry, which acquired the company in 2007.

A senior general who was dispatched to the Alexandria Shipyard last week to negotiate a settlement with the protesting workers “failed to address their grievances, and treated the workers as if they were soldiers,” the lawyer claimed.

“In a just legal system, civilians must not be referred to military prosecution” or military trials, Awad argued. “Civilian workers, employees or administrators in military establishments should be treated as civilians, not as military personnel.”

Several independent organizations were similarly outraged by the detention of the protesting workers. On May 27, the Dockers Federation issued a statement “condemning the repression, abuse, imprisonment and military prosecution suffered by workers at the Alexandria Shipyard Company for simply demanding improved living conditions.”

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information also issued a statement criticizing the arrests and military summons, while the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ services declared that “workers should not be confronted with military tribunals for merely demanding their basic labor rights.”
Alexandria’s shipyard workers and unionists could not be reached for comment.

Several local media outlets reported that a meeting would be held on Tuesday between Alexandria Shipyard Company management and union representatives to work toward resolving the ongoing conflict and reopening the company.

*Photo courtesy of Tahrir News

American researcher deported & banned from entering Egypt

Mada Masr
US citizen barred entry to Egypt due to 'national security' concerns

Friday, May 27, 2016

US citizen Ada Petiwala was refused entry to Egypt on Tuesday, after being detained and interrogated at Cairo International Airport, and was told she is banned from entering the country again as she is considered a problem for national security.

In a Facebook post published on Friday, Petiwala explained that she was detained and her passport was confiscated after it was initially stamped by the passport control office. Petiwala and her husband, who is an Egyptian national and was with her on a flight from France, were subsequently interrogated. Airport security asked Petiwala about her many previous visits to Egypt. She explained that she was the recipient of a Center for Arabic Study Abroad scholarship from 2013 to 2014 and later worked at Townhouse gallery.

When Petiwala stated that she is a New York University master’s student with a focus on media studies and Indian culture in Egypt, airport officials laughed at her in disbelief.

"I repeated again and again that the primary reason for my trip to Egypt was to spend time with my husband, whom I only can now see during my breaks from school. He does not have an American visa. I told these truths knowing full well that there is sensitivity and surveillance surrounding every single one of the institutions I have been affiliated with," she explained.

At 6:00 am, after several hours of interrogation, Petiwala said authorities decided to ban her from entering Egypt, citing national security concerns.

“Leave her here and go home and sleep because she’s not going to enter Egypt again," airport security told her husband, according to Petiwala.

Petiwala went on to describe the "humiliating treatment" she was subjected to by airport security officials. Despite having recently undergone a medical procedure that induces bleeding, of which she claims security officials were aware, she was mocked by security personnel, forced to carry her luggage to several detention centers throughout the airport and denied access to food, water and the bathroom as she waited to board a flight to Berlin.

When she was finally allowed to enter a bathroom before boarding her flight, she yelled at an officer who, in return, spat in her face.

"I have not found out, from any source of any kind, why I am not allowed in Egypt. I only recently read that the same day there were also foreign journalists detained and deported from Cairo. Today I filed a complaint ... at the Egyptian Consulate in Berlin to see if I can find another way in. It will make no difference. My own embassy said it is out of their hands. The police state will do its bidding. Violence in all forms is arbitrary," she concluded.

Petiwala and her husband were not available to comment on the incident.

A number of foreign researchers, academics and journalists have been recently banned from entering Egypt. On Monday, airport security detained French journalist Rémy Pigaglio for 30 hours upon arrival at Cairo International Airport, confiscating his passport and preventing him from contacting the French Embassy in Cairo, before deporting him to France.

Pigaglio is a correspondent for the French newspaper La Croix and was previously authorized to work in Egypt by the Egyptian State Information Services, which handles permits for international journalists in Egypt.

A study published by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) in February stated that the Egyptian state’s decision to ban foreign researchers from entering the country is largely based on their criticism of the government.

AFTE’s study, which is translated as Entry banned: On banning entry of foreign researchers and academics to Egypt, highlights a number of situations in which researchers have been prevented from entering the country due to their political views, including researchers Atef Botros and Michele Dunne, Tunisian writer Amel Grami and Human Right Watch officials Kenneth Roth and Sarah Leah Whitson.

EU: Halt arms transfers to Egypt to stop police abuses, killings & torture

May 24, 2016

Almost half of European Union (EU) member states have flouted an EU-wide suspension on arms transfers to Egypt, risking complicity in a wave of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture, Amnesty International said today.

Despite the suspension imposed after hundreds of protesters were killed in a show of grossly excessive force by security forces in August 2013, 12 out of 28 EU member states have remained among Egypt’s main suppliers of arms and policing equipment. It is feared that EU foreign ministers could soon decide to scrap the current, already insufficient, suspension.

“Almost three years on from the mass killings that led the EU to call on its member states to halt arms transfers to Egypt, the human rights situation has actually deteriorated,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

“Internal repression by the security forces remains rife, and there has been virtually no accountability. Excessive use of force, mass arbitrary arrests, torture, and enforced disappearances having become a part of the security forces’ modus operandi.

“EU states transferring arms and policing equipment to Egyptian forces carrying out enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests on a mass scale are acting recklessly and are risking complicity in these serious violations.”


In 2014 alone, EU states authorized 290 licenses for military equipment to Egypt, totaling more than €6 billion (US$6.77). The items have included: small arms, light weapons and ammunition; armored vehicles; military helicopters; heavier weapons for use in counter-terrorism and military operations; and surveillance technology.

The EU countries who have been supplying arms to Egypt through exports or brokering since 2013 are: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK.

According to Privacy International, companies from several EU countries, including Germany, Italy and the UK, have also supplied the Egyptian authorities with sophisticated equipment or technologies destined for use in state surveillance, which Amnesty International fears may be used to suppress peaceful dissent and violate the right to privacy. 


In recent years, the Egyptian authorities have presided over a crackdown under the guise of restoring stability in the country after the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. Heavy-handed measures including the use of arbitrary and excessive force with firearms, armored vehicles and other equipment, have resulted in the unlawful killing of hundreds of protesters. Thousands more people have been arrested and faced mass trials which are grossly unfair. Detainees have routinely reported torture and other ill-treatment.

The security forces have both threatened and used armed force to strike fear into those who would peacefully challenge the government’s legitimacy or openly criticize its policies. Meanwhile, the repressive new Protest Law (November 2013) and Counter-terrorism Law (August 2015) have effectively sanctioned the use of excessive force. 

Egyptian security forces are routinely armed with pistols and rifles. They often use batons, shotguns, water cannon and tear gas, supported by various types of armored vehicles, to disperse protests and other politically charged public gatherings. The 2013 Protest Law allows security forces to respond “proportionately” to the use of firearms by protesters in order to protect lives, money and property – but this is interpreted in flagrant violation of international standards which only permit security forces to use lethal force in response to an imminent threat to life or serious injury.

Since the law came into force, security forces have used excessive force to ruthlessly dismantle protests, often with lethal results. In January 2015 at least 27 people died in protest-related violence, many at the hands of armed security forces. They included Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, a political activist, poet and a young mother, who was shot dead by a police officer in central Cairo. Despite images of her dying moments going viral and sparking international outrage, the member of the security forces originally found responsible for her death has had his conviction overturned by Egypt’s highest court and now must face a retrial.

Armed security forces have also conducted mass arrests of the government’s critics and political opponents. Almost 12,000 people were arrested on suspicion of “terrorism” in the first 10 months of 2015 alone, according to an Interior Ministry official quoted in the Egyptian press. In January 2016 more than 5,000 residences in central Cairo were raided by armed security forces in a security sweep around the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising, with many activists detained.

Armed security forces arrested hundreds of people while dispersing mostly peaceful protests on April 25 against the government’s decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Those arrested in the crackdown around the protests included human rights defenders, journalists and activists.

On May 14, courts sentenced more than 150 people to between two and five-years’ imprisonment for involvement in the protests.

A wave of enforced disappearances has seen hundreds of people abducted by armed security forces over the past year. They are held incommunicado for extended periods without access to their families or lawyers, and tortured by state security forces into “confessing” to terrorism-related offenses. 

There has been no accountability for serious human rights violations committed during and since the 2011 uprising. So far, the Egyptian authorities have failed to conduct effective, independent and impartial investigations into the hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances, torture and unlawful killings documented by human rights groups.


The Egyptian army has been increasingly engaged in military operations against armed groups, which have launched attacks against civilians and security forces, particularly in the north of the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian military is known to have used heavy weapons in such operations, including armored vehicles, tanks, Apache gunships and F-16 fighter jets.

Amnesty International is concerned about the total lack of transparency over the army’s operations against armed groups.

A media blackout has been imposed on reporting about military operations in the Sinai, and journalists and independent civil society organizations have been banned from entering the area. 

Meanwhile, EU states have signed off on transfers of heavy weapons and equipment purportedly to help Egypt’s fight against “terrorism,” despite a lack of transparency and human rights guarantees regarding their use. This is particularly concerning given the complete lack of accountability for gross human rights violations perpetrated during the army’s rule following the 2011 uprising.


While the records show that many EU states have all but ignored the 2013 call for a suspension of transfers of arms used for “internal repression” in Egypt, there are fears that upcoming talks could result in a further loosening or even a discontinuation of the suspension. This follows last year’s decision by the U.S. to resume military aid to Egypt to the tune of $1.3 billion annually.

“Supplying arms that are likely to fuel such internal repression in Egypt is contrary to the Arms Trade Treaty, to which all EU states are party, and flouts the EU’s Common Position on arms exports,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

“The EU should immediately impose an embargo on all transfers of the types of arms and equipment being used by Egypt to commit serious human rights violations. The EU and its members must stop rewarding bad behavior by Egypt’s police and military with a bonanza of arms supplies.”

Some of Egypt’s biggest suppliers of arms that could be used for internal repression include:

  • Bulgaria issued a total of 59 licenses for €51,643,626 worth of military equipment to Egypt in 2014 with over €11 million for small arms/light weapons and ammunition. Exports to Egypt included 10,500 assault rifles, 300 light machine guns and 21 sub-machine guns.

  • The Czech Republic has been a consistent supplier of small arms to Egypt. In 2014 the Czech government issued 26 licenses for military goods to Egypt worth €19.9 million – the majority for small arms and ammunition. The Czech authorities reported to the UN that they exported 80,953 pistols and revolvers to Egypt between 2013 and 2015. Egypt’s Interior Ministry had also ordered 10 million 9mm caliber cartridges from Czech arms companies in February 2014.

  • France issued export licenses worth more than €100 million in 2014 under the category of “bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles and other explosive devices” and “ground vehicles and components”.  Exports have included more than 100 Sherpa trucks, which are advertised for use by law-enforcement officials.

  • Italy issued 21 licenses of military equipment totaling €33.9 million in 2014, nearly half of which was small arms. In 2015, Italy sent more than €4 million worth of small arms and related parts and accessories, and has already registered the export of €73,391 worth of pistols or revolvers to Egypt in 2016.

Amnesty International is calling on the EU and all EU member states to:

Impose and fully implement a binding embargo on transfers of security and policing equipment to Egypt of the types of arms used to commit or facilitate serious violations of human rights.

Failing to do so would risk ongoing breaches of the EU’s Common Position on arms exports, as well as the human rights provisions of the global Arms Trade Treaty. Impose a ‘presumption of denial’ policy on transfers of arms intended for use by Egypt’s armed forces and air force.

Reports of some aerial attacks that resulted in fatalities and serious injuries have not been effectively, independently and impartially investigated. Human rights violations committed by the armed forces during the uprising in 2011 and in the year of military rule that followed also have not been effectively investigated.

Any potential export to Egypt of such items should not be authorized unless a thorough human rights risk assessment demonstrates that the Egyptian armed forces’ recipient will use the equipment lawfully, including by upholding its international human rights law obligations,and unless a binding guarantee to that effect is agreed by the exporting state with the Egyptian government.  

Maintain this embargo and ‘presumption of denial’ policy until the Egyptian authorities put in place effective safeguards to prevent further serious violations by security forces, and carry out full, prompt, independent and impartial investigations into violations since the 2011 uprising with the aim of prosecuting those responsible for crimes in fair trials.

Egyptian authorities deport French journalist

Associated Press
Egypt Deports French Journalist in Latest Crackdown on Press
Egypt deported a French journalist without explanation, the reporter said Wednesday, the latest move in an ongoing crackdown by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's government on freedom of expression and the media.

Correspondent Remy Pigaglio, who worked for several publications including Catholic daily La Croix and was based in Egypt since 2014, was returning from vacation in France and prevented from entering the country on Monday. Pigaglio said he has a valid residency work permit and a press card, and was detained for 30 hours at Cairo International Airport before being sent back to Paris.

Authorities took away his mobile phone and examined photos on it, confiscated his passport, and barred him from speaking with embassy officials and family until Monday evening, he said by telephone from Paris. He was held overnight in a cell at the airport.

"I don't understand it at all, and still don't know why they decided to ban me from entering the territory," he said, adding that he wasn't treated badly. He said none of his photos were suspicious but that some of them were of journalists holding a general assembly meeting at their union headquarters amid a sit-in earlier this month.

The French ambassador to Cairo tried to intervene on his behalf but did not manage to prevent the deportation, and is urging Egyptian authorities to reconsider their decision, France's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In Paris, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that he protested the move, calling his Egyptian counterpart and telling him he "couldn't remain indifferent to a situation that infringes the freedom of the press."

French journalists in Egypt demanded an explanation, saying in a statement that the deportation was a sign of "authorities' growing repression of Egyptian and foreign media: surveillance, arrest, expulsion and detention."

Journalists have been regularly detained, jailed, and prosecuted under the rule of el-Sissi, who led the 2013 military overthrow of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected but divisive president. Foreigners working in a variety of fields have been denied entry to Egypt without explanation.

Egypt was ranked 158 out of 180 countries in the 2015 Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters Without Borders, a freedom of expression advocacy group. In December, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Egypt was second only to China as the world's worst jailer of journalists in 2015.

One of Pigaglio's last articles covered the sit-in at the headquarters of Egypt's journalists' union in downtown Cairo where he took the photos on his phone, and where demonstrators were protesting the arrest of two journalists police seized from the building.

In an unrelated development, defense lawyers said a Cairo appeals court quashed five-year prison terms handed down on May 14 against 47 anti-government protesters convicted of breaking a law that effectively bans street demonstrations.

However, they said the court upheld the lower tribunal's decision to slap a fine of 100,000 pounds (about 10,000 dollars) on each of the 47 protesters. The appeals court verdict was passed late Tuesday.

The 47 were among a total of 152 protesters convicted on May 14 of breaking the demonstrations law during protests on April 25 against the government's decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The 152 were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to five years; many were tried in absentia.

Earlier this month, a new draft bill was submitted to Egypt's parliament on regulating the media.
Journalists say it would likely bring the demise of dozens of low-budget, online media outlets serving as refuge for young writers and liberal activists escaping government restrictions on freedom of expression. Awaiting approval by a parliament dominated by el-Sissi loyalists, lawmakers are also set to approve clauses that would ban all live video transmissions without permits. Insiders expect such permits will be denied to non-state media.

European Union member states broadly back el-Sissi and continue to sell Egypt sophisticated weaponry under the rationale that the country needs the firepower to fight a growing insurgency by Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt, they argue, remains a bulwark of stability in a volatile Middle East.

A French parliamentary delegation was in Cairo the very day Pigaglio was detained, with Philippe Folliot, head of the French-Egyptian friendship group in the National Assembly telling The Associated Press that "nothing" could impact good relations between the two countries. He later however denounced Pigaglio's expulsion on Twitter, saying that it "doesn't improve Egypt's image."

El-Sissi's harsh crackdown on critics has left thousands jailed and fanned doubts over his leadership, with many nations voicing concerns.

Close partner Italy has been particularly critical after an Italian doctoral student was found tortured to death after disappearing on Jan. 25, a day that saw a massive police presence in Cairo, prompting accusations that Egypt's security services were involved.

Italy has withdrawn its ambassador to Cairo over the case of Giulio Regeni and said Egypt was not being sufficiently cooperative in the investigation. Egypt denies its security services were involved in Regeni's killing.


*Sylvie Corbet  contributed to this report.

Military police deployed to intimidate shipyard workers at sit-in protest

Mada Masr
Nile Cotton, Alexandria Shipyard workers sit in against unpaid wages, state failures

Monday, May 23, 2016

Jano Charbel 

For the second consecutive day, hundreds of workers from two state-owned companies have been challenging the restrictive provisions of Egypt’s protest law by conducting overnight sit-ins to protest against the state’s labor policies.

Although such open-ended sit-ins are banned by the protest law, workers from the Nile Cotton Ginning Company and the Alexandria Shipyard Company have been sitting in outside Parliament, the Ministry of Public Sector Works and at the Port of Alexandria.

The sit-ins were launched against what workers claim is the state’s failure to uphold its own laws and court verdicts.

Military police units have been deployed to the Port of Alexandria in response to the hundreds-strong sit-in held by workers from the Alexandria Shipyard Company, the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper reported on Monday. A senior navy general was also dispatched to try to persuade the workers to end the protests, according to the privately owned Tahrir News.

The shipyard workers have sitting in since Sunday to protest low wages, which fall below the national monthly minimum wage of LE1,200 that was established for public sector workers at the beginning of 2014. They’re also protesting against the non-payment of their annual pre-Ramadan bonuses, and demanding the dismissal of the company’s chief manager.

Representatives from the Armed Forces began attempting to negotiate a settlement with the protesting shipyard workers on Monday, said Tahrir News, but the protesters have reportedly threatened to escalate by going on strike until their demands are met.

Also since Sunday, dozens of workers from the Nile Cotton Ginning Company have been demonstrating in downtown Cairo outside the Parliament building and Cabinet headquarters. They reportedly haven’t been paid for seven months.

On Monday, the workers relocated their sit-in to the newly established Ministry of Public Sector Works in the hopes of receiving a pledge from the state to pay their wages and reopen their factories.

Workers from several branches of the Nile Cotton Ginning Company have held a host of industrial actions over the past four years against the failure to implement of a 2011 Administrative Court verdict that nullified the privatization of their company, and that ordered the company to reopen under state administration.

The court had ruled against Nile Cotton’s privatization in 2011 on the basis that the company was sold for far less than its real market value, and in violation of privatization regulations. The Nile Cotton Ginning Company was privatized in 1997 and sold as a share-holding company registered on the Egyptian Stock Exchange.

In September 2013, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the 2011 verdict that nullified the sale. A subsequent decree from the prime minister upheld both the 2011 and 2013 court verdicts, and called for the state to reopen the Nile Cotton Ginning Company’s branches under its auspices.

The company’s workers claim that the non-implementation of these rulings is the principle cause for their repeated protests.

The Nile Cotton Ginning Company remains in a legal state of limbo, and many of its regional branches and production lines have come to a complete standstill. With production grinding to a halt, the company’s administrators have been unable to pay their workers.

Across Egypt, stalled companies and faltering industries have translated into the non-payment of wages for thousands of workers. In turn, this has led to a nationwide spike in industrial actions and labor unrest.

There were 493 labor protests from January to April 2016 alone, according to the latest figures issued by the independent nongovernmental organization Democracy Meter. This rate currently represents an average of six industrial actions per day, and a 25 percent increase in labor unrest compared to the same period last year.

A total of 1,117 strikes and other industrial actions were reported across Egypt in 2015, according to Democracy Meter, amounting to an average of three labor protests per day.

*Photo courtesy of Tahrir News

Condemnation of death sentences against 3 journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists
Egyptian court recommends death penalty for three journalists

May 11, 2016

The Committee to Protect Journalists today strongly condemned an Egyptian court's recommendation to sentence three journalists to death. They were convicted of helping to smuggle secret documents to Qatari intelligence officers and the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera. The journalists include two Al-Jazeera employees.

Judge Mohammed Shirin Fahmy on May 7 recommended the death penalty for six people -- including Ibrahim Helal, former news director at Al-Jazeera's Arabic news channel, Al-Jazeera producer Alaa Omar Mohammed Sablan, and Asmaa Al-Khatib, a former news editor for the pro-Muslim brotherhood news site Rassd -- convicted of espionage in connection with the leaked documents, according to press reports.

The other three defendants convicted Saturday are documentary film producer and Islamist political activist Ahmed Afifi, flight attendant Mohamed Kilani, and academic Ahmed Ismail.

The three journalists sentenced on May 7 were tried in absentia, and are not in Egypt. Afifi, Kilani, and Ismail are in state custody. Egypt's Mufti, an official tasked with offering religious opinions, must now give the court his non-binding opinion on all the provisional death sentences before a final sentencing hearing scheduled for June 18. All the verdicts are subject to appeal.

"Egypt's rulers have made no secret of their hostility to independent journalism. But for a court to sentence journalists to death would represent a new low," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. "We call on Egyptian prosecutors not to contest any appeals filed by the journalists' lawyers."

The judge said he would deliver on June 18 a verdict in the case of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, whom the military ousted after mass protests in July 2013, and four other people charged in the same case.

Khaled Abdel Wahab Radwan, a former managing producer for the defunct Egypt 25 television channel - which was formerly owned by figures linked to the Muslim Brotherhood -- is among those awaiting a verdict on June 18. Radwan is in custody, according to news reports.

In a statement emailed to CPJ, Al-Jazeera condemned the May 7 ruling, calling it "unjust, shocking, and outrageous."

The Interior Ministry on March 30, 2014, published a video on the social media website Facebook in which Afifi confessed to hiding three bags of secret government documents in Ismail's home and implicated the others in what the court found was an operation to smuggle the documents to their buyers in the Qatari intelligence agency and Al-Jazeera.

Afifi repudiated this confession in January 2016, claiming he had been tortured, according to news reports.

Helal and Al-Khatib, speaking to CPJ from Qatar and Turkey, respectively, both denied having had any role in smuggling the documents. Helal said he believes his conviction was the result of his decision to publish on March 27, 2014, a memorandum dated May 2013 from Mahmoud Hegazy, then the head of Military Intelligence, to Morsi, recommending that the president work more closely with Hamas to maintain stability in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Helal also said he does not know the three defendants in custody who were sentenced along with the journalists.

The Ministry of Interior did not return phone calls or emails from CPJ seeking comment.

Journalists in revolt against Minister of Interior

Deutsche Welle 

Egyptian journalists call for removal of interior minister, vow to ban minister's name

Thousands of journalists in Egypt have demanded the removal of the country's interior minister and have vowed to ban printing his name, amid growing anger over the arrest of a pair of opposition journalists. 

Thursday 05.05.2016

Some 3,000 journalists on Wednesday vowed not to print the name of the country's interior minister in protest against the arrest of two employees of an opposition website.

"We agreed to prohibit the publication of the interior minister's name and to publish only his picture in negative in a preliminary step towards banning all news of the Interior Ministry until the minister is dismissed," the journalists' union said following an emergency meeting.

On Sunday, two employees of the opposition website "Bawabet Yanayer," Mahmoud El Sakka and Amr Badr, were arrested by government authorities in an ongoing effort to squash dissent as anger at President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi grows.

The two journalists were arrested over allegations they had called for anti-government protests over el-Sissi's recent controversial decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Earlier this week, Egypt's prosecutor general imposed a media gag order on the investigation.

Facing off against police outside the union headquarters, hundreds of journalists rallied on the steps chanting "Journalism is not a crime!"

Journalists protest against restriction on the press and to demand the release of detained journalists, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Staff


Union officials said they were calling for the ouster of Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar because "he is the main [person] responsible the crisis."

The journalists also said they discussed plans to hold a strike next week if their demands weren't met.

Earlier Wednesday, dozens of pro-government protestors reportedly gathered in front of the union's office to show their support for el-Sissi, some chanting "El-Sissi, we love you" and "Journalists are thugs."

*Photos courtesy of Tahsin Bakr courtesy of EPA, & REUTERS; Artwork courtesy of Carlos Latuff

Leaked MOI memos reveal intent to issue gag orders on Journalists Syndicate raid & Regeni murder

Mada Masr
Leaked MOI memos reveal intentions to issue gag orders on Journalists Syndicate raid, Regeni's murder

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mohamed Hamama


Journalists stage protests over police raid on syndicate, arrest of colleagues

Associated Press 
Egypt journalists stage protest over police raid at union

Brian Rohan

Egypt’s journalists’ syndicate called for the dismissal of the interior minister and an immediate sit-in at its headquarters in downtown Cairo on Monday, to protest the police detention of two journalists on its premises the night earlier.

After an emergency meeting early Monday morning, the group called for the “open-ended” sit-in to run through a Wednesday general assembly meeting and World Press Freedom day on May 3.

It described the police’s entry into the building as a “raid by security forces whose blatant barbarism and aggression on the dignity of the press and journalists and their syndicate has surprised the journalistic community and the Egyptian people.” 

Some senior syndicate members have said the raid was heavy-handed, involving dozens of officers and resulted in a security guard being injured.

Police denied they entered the building by force and said only eight officers were involved, who they said were acting on an arrest warrant for the two journalists — who were accused of organizing protests to destabilize the country. Unauthorized demonstrations in Egypt are effectively banned.
“The Ministry of Interior affirms that it did not raid the syndicate or use any kind of force in arresting the two, who turned themselves in as soon as they were told of the arrest warrant,” the ministry said in a statement.
The two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud el-Sakka, are government critics who work for a website known as January Gate, also critical of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government.
It was unclear what size any sit-in at the syndicate could achieve; the area surrounding the building has been barricaded by police and dozens of officers backed by armed troops have been preventing entry at both ends of the street. Hundreds of undercover police have been deployed across central Cairo in order to prevent any protests.
A day earlier, police prevented hundreds of workers from holding a meeting at the building to commemorate International Workers’ Day, prompting independent trade union leaders to urge the government to allow them freedom of assembly.
The syndicate has invited the trade union leaders to join the sit-in to denounce the “raid” and protest restrictions on freedom of assembly for labor organizers. It said the move was illegal and violated its charter, which forbids police from entering the building without the presence of a syndicate official, and is urging police to end their “siege” of the building and stop preventing journalists from entering.
The journalists’ syndicate has been a rallying point for demonstrations in the past, and was blocked in a similar manner ahead of planned anti-government protests last Monday.
The building drew particular attention because it was from there that some 2,000 demonstrators gathered last month to protest el-Sissi’s decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Police fired tear gas and arrested dozens to break up the protests, the first significant wave of street demonstrations since the former army chief became president in 2014.
A second round of mass demonstrations over the issue planned for last Monday were stifled by a massive security presence, with hundreds of arrests and only small flash mobs managing to assemble, drawing tear gas and birdshot from the riot police.

*Photo by Khaled El-Fiqi, courtesy of EPA

Police raid Journalists' Syndicate, arrest 2 journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists
Egypt police raid Journalists' Syndicate, arrest two journalists

May 2, 2016

Egyptian authorities should immediately release Amr Badr, Mahmoud al-Sakka, and all journalists jailed for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Police on Sunday raided the Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo, where the two were staging a sit-in protest, and arrested them, according to their employer and news reports. Today prosecutors ordered the journalists detained for 15 days of investigation on charges of "spreading false news," "endangering national security," and "organizing illegal protests," according to news reports.

Badr, the editor of the news website Yanair, which is often critical of the government, and al-Sakka, another editor for the website, had taken refuge inside the Journalists' Syndicate on Saturday and were staging a sit-in protest. About 50 policemen in civilian clothes stormed the syndicate Sunday night, assaulted its private security officers, and broke furniture in the lobby, while arresting the two, Journalists' Syndicate President Yehia Qallash told CBC TV.

Qallash called the raid "unprecedented" and "illegal," and called on Minister of Interior Magdal Abdel Ghaffar to resign.

"Authorities in Egypt are abandoning all restraint in their efforts to intimidate and silence the press," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington.

"Egypt's government should open an immediate investigation into this violent raid, immediately release Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka, and stop persecuting journalists for doing their jobs."

In a statement published on its Facebook page today, the Interior Ministry denied using any kind of force in the arrest, saying the journalists peacefully turned themselves in to eight police officers at the syndicate, and that that police had followed the law in implementing an arrest warrant.

In a statement published on Yanair today, Badr said, via his lawyers, that authorities were targeting him and al-Sakka for their criticism of the government, including its recent decision to give Saudi Arabia control of two Red Sea islands. According to news reports, the two had been hiding, fearing arrest, since at least April 22, when police raided their homes before dawn.

Al-Sakka had previously been arrested in December 2015, on charges of belonging to an illegal group and planning illegal protests on the fifth anniversary of the January 25, 2011, uprising that led former President Hosni Mubarak to resign. Authorities ordered al-Sakka released in March, according to reports.

His arrest on Sunday follows revived protests, in which dozens of journalists have been detained, according to CPJ research. On Thursday journalists marched to the general prosecutor's office in central Cairo to protest the escalated crackdown on the press. Journalists gathered again today to protest the storming of the syndicate and the arrest of their colleagues, according to media reports.

Egypt was the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide on December 1, 2015, according to CPJ's prison census.

*Photo by Mohammed Abdel Ghany, courtesy of REUTERS


Reporters Without Borders/RSF 
RSF condemns arrests during police raid on Journalists’ Syndicate

May 3, 2016

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the police raid on the Cairo headquarters of the Journalists’ Syndicate on 1 May and calls for the immediate release of the two journalists who were unjustly detained in the operation.
The raid reinforced the climate of terror for media personnel in Egypt on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated today.

Journalists’ Syndicate president Yahia Qallash said around 50 plainclothes policemen stormed into the syndicate’s headquarters on the evening of 1 May to arrest the two journalists, who had been staging a sit-in inside in protest against warrants for their arrest and searches of their homes.

They are Amr Badr, the founder and editor-in-chief of the opposition news website Yanair (January), and Mahmoud El-Sakka, a journalist who works for the site.

In response to this “unprecedented” raid on the Journalists’ Syndicate, its members have been protesting inside its headquarters and on social networks to demand the release of the journalists and the interior minister’s resignation.

The NGO Journalists Against Torture has announced a 24-hour strike in solidarity with the Syndicate, which convened a general assembly for tomorrow and announced a permanent sit-in inside until the meeting.

“We condemn this raid on the headquarters of the Journalists’ Syndicate and we call on the authorities to intervene to obtain the immediate release of these journalists and the withdrawal of the charges against them,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Journalists have no place being in prison, especially when all they did was criticize the government.”

According to the Syndicate’s charter, a member of the prosecutor-general’s office must know and the president of the Syndicate or his representative must be present when the police enter its headquarters.

The interior ministry issued a statement denying that the police stormed the building or that violence was used. It said the two journalists were arrested without use of force, as a result of a decision by the prosecutor’s office and in coordination with the head of security at the Syndicate.

The charges against the two journalists include spreading false rumours about Egypt’s decision to return two small islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia and inciting protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government.

The police prevented the holding of a conference inside the Syndicate’s headquarters on 1 May to mark Labour Day. They also prevented many journalists and demonstrators from entering the building on 25 April, when a series of demonstrations throughout Cairo were quickly dispersed and dozens of journalists who had gone to cover them were detained for several hours.

The Journalists’ Syndicate filed a complaint against the interior ministry about the abuses against journalists during the 25 April demonstrations.

Sakka, one of the two journalists arrested on 1 May, was previously arrested on 30 December on various charges including membership of an illegal group. He was released at the start of March pending the outcome of the investigation.

Currently the world’s fourth biggest prison for journalists (after China, Eritrea and Iran), Egypt is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.