The head of the journalists’ union in Egypt and his two colleagues have been sentenced to two years in prison for “harboring fugitives”. A court in Cairo also allowed Yehia Qallash (above) and board members Gamal Abdel Rahim and Khaled al-Balshy to pay a $630-bail (£510) pending an appeal, the BBC reports:
In May, police raided the union’s headquarters in the capital, arresting two opposition journalists. The two had sought shelter in the building from arrest warrants. They are accused of inciting protests against a decision by the Egyptian authorities to hand over two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.
“The authorities are punishing Yehia Qallash, Khaled al-Balshy, and Gamal Abdel Rahim, who represent the most influential voice for press freedom in Egypt, for working to protect journalists from harassment, threats, and arrests,” said Sherif Mansour, the Committee to Protect Journalists MENA Program Coordinator. “We call on Egyptian authorities to let the Journalists Syndicate and all members of the press do their jobs without fear of reprisal.”
The authorities have also banned celebrated human rights Azza Soliman (right) from travel. The head of the board of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), she was on her way to Jordan to participate in a training when she was informed that she is banned from traveling based on a judicial order issued on November 17th, 2016.
Soliman was reportedly informed today that her assets and her law firm’s assets have been frozen based on a judicial order by the investigative judge in Case#173 for the year 2011 Cairo High Appeal Investigations, commonly known as the “NGOs foreign funding case”.
These developments are the latest episode in an ongoing crackdown on civil society, analysts suggest.
After Parliament moved forward with an extremely restrictive NGO draft bill last week, six parties and twenty-two civil society organizations expressed their concerns regarding the draft in a joint statement, indicating that the bill would “effectively eradicate civil society and defer administration of it to the government and security apparatus,” notes the Project on Middle East Democracy. The groups condemned what it called “parliament’s treatment of civil society as an enemy to be defeated through secret plots and laws.” Parliament approved the draft bill and sent it to the State Council for approval and reconciliation with another version of the law proposed by the Cabinet.