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Pompeo urges Egypt to respect freedom of press after journalist detentions

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold a joint press conference after their meeting in Podgorica, Montenegro, 4 October, 2019 [Adel Omeragic/Anadolu Agency]
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold a joint press conference after their meeting in Podgorica, Montenegro, 4 October, 2019 [Adel Omeragic/Anadolu Agency]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday called on Egypt to respect freedom of the press, days after Egyptian security forces raided the office of independent news website Mada Masr and briefly detained three of its staff, reports Reuters.

“As part of our long-standing strategic partnership with Egypt, we continue to raise the fundamental importance of respect for human rights, universal freedoms, and the need for a robust civil society,” Pompeo said in a news conference.

Freedom of press in Egypt - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Freedom of press in Egypt – Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Rights activists say Egyptian 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.

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Mada Masr is one of Egypt’s last independent news outlets publishing critical stories after years of tightening controls on media and arrests of journalists and bloggers. Its website, which carries stories in Arabic and English, is blocked in Egypt.

On Sunday, Mada Masr said Egyptian security forces raided its offices and briefly detained three of its staff, including its top editor, and confiscated their laptops and phones. All three were later released from a local police station, it said.

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.

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