The European Union (EU) said on Sunday that there was a “decline” in media freedom in Egypt, calling on the local authorities “to enable journalists to work without fear.”
The EU remarks came a day after the Egyptian security forces raid on the office of the local independent news website Mada Masr, where they had detained three of its staff including its top editor.
After three hours of detention, three staff members, including editor-in-chief Lina Attalah were released from a police station, according to local media.
“There are continuous restrictions on freedoms, including freedom of expression and assembly, and media freedom in Egypt,” the EU explained, stressing that an “independent and diverse media is the key to an effective democracy.”
“Journalists should be able to do their job without fear of harassment, in line with the Egyptian constitution and Egypt’s international obligations,” the EU reiterated.
Cairo often rejects domestic and international statements on human rights violations, describing them as “lies.”
Rights activists say that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has overseen an unprecedented crackdown on freedoms in Egypt since he took power in 2014. Sisi and his backers say the measures are needed to keep Egypt stable and to counter threats from Islamist militants.
Last month, the UN human rights office called on Egypt to free a prominent blogger, a lawyer, and a journalist, all of whom it said were mistreated in custody. They are among several thousand people who activists say have been detained following rare protests against Sisi in Cairo and other cities in September.
Egypt’s public prosecutor has acknowledged the detention of not more than 1,000 people in connection with the protests. Officials have denied accusations by relatives, lawyers and activists that prisoners are mistreated.