On Monday, the Supreme State Security Prosecution decided to detain Mustafa Saqr, the owner of the “Business News” company that issues the “Daily News Egypt” and “Al-Borsa” newspapers, for a period of 15 days pending investigations, on charges of joining an “unknown” group.
Mahmoud Kamel, a member of the Press Syndicate Council, had revealed that he had received a phone call informin him of Mustafa Saqr ‘s arrest from his home early Sunday morning, and he was taken to a National Security headquarter.
Kamel pointed out that the State Security Prosecution usually notifies the Syndicate Council of the arrest of any of its members in cases related to publishing. But it does not notify it if there is more than one other charge, even if accusations related to publication were among them .
Kamel went on to say, in a statement to the “Darb” news website, which was recently blocked, that “the Press Syndicate Council will move to discuss the case,” urging the responsible authorities to clarify the circumstances of Saqr’s arrest, and allow access to a lawyer to attend the ongoing investigations with him. And to notify the syndicate with details of the investigations.
At the same time, a member of the Journalists Syndicate, Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafeez, said that the Syndicate was informally notified of his arrest, but not made aware of the accusations nor the details of the case because the decision was made and acted upon too quickly for even a lawyer from the Syndicate to attend the investigations.
Abdel Hafeez called on the Public Prosecutor to notify the Syndicate of the charges against Saqr. And to release him, taking into account that there should be no pre-trial detention in cases related to publishing. Ensuring that the Syndicate can guarantee the presence of any and all journalists to attend investigations in a timely manner.
The Egyptian authorities had previously arrested “Mustafa Saqr,” the editor of “Al Borsa”, on May 3, 2017. And it held his money a year earlier, and placed him on one of the terrorist lists, even though he does not identify with any movement or political party.
In December 2016, the Muslim Brotherhood’s inventory and fund management committee decided to seize the assets and belongings of Saqr, who was the chairman of the Board of Directors of “Business News” for press and publishing at the time, as well as to reserve the company’s assets.
It is worth mentionning that the company at the time denied its affiliation or any of its employees to any political faction.
The company released a statement saying that it has been working in the media and journalistic community since 2008 and neither it nor any of its employees or its founders belong to any party or political faction or religious view, and was not at any time a voice of any orientation of a particular group, indicating its editorial policy to be of a liberal nature.
In May 2017, the two daily newspapers, Al-Borsa and Daily News Egypt, denounced what they described as “the ongoing government campaign to clamp down on them”, after blocking their websites, without notifying anyone of the decision and its motives.
It is noteworthy that Egypt is ranked 163 (out of 180 per cent) on the World Press Freedom rankings, published by Reporters Without Borders, earlier in 2019.
The Arab Observatory for Media Freedom published a report last March, in which it said that the list of journalists and media detainees until the end of March 2020 amounted to (73) male and female journalists in Egypt.