Rights group Amnesty International has accused Egyptian authorities of “paranoia” after police arrested hundreds of people, including journalists, in the latest crackdown on protests across the country.
Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, accused Egypt on Tuesday of “crushing freedom of peaceful assembly” and “violating other rights”.
“The authorities say they are restoring stability and security, but their paranoia has created a real blind spot and appears to have rendered them incapable of distinguishing between peaceful demonstrations and genuine security threats.”
Mughrabi’s remarks came after more than 300 people, including 44 journalists were arrested on Monday, the dpa news agency reported.
According to Gamal Abdul-Rahim, secretary-general of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, nine journalists were still in detention on Tuesday.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalistscondemned the arrests of journalists, adding that Egypt was “the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide in 2015.”
On Monday, riot police fired tear gas at separate protests in Cairo before chasing down protesters and arresting them.
Dozens of people were also arrested before the planned protests, with some being charged with incitement offences under a harsh new terrorism law, according to rights groups.
The rallies came after President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the police and army all issued warnings against attempts to disturb security or break the country’s laws, which effectively ban protests without prior police permission.
Despite the ban, earlier this month, thousands of people marched in the biggest anti-government demonstrations since Sisi took office in 2014, shouting slogans such as “Down with the regime” and “Leave”, both of which were used during the 2011 revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.
Sisi, who was once lauded as an “icon of the revolution” by the military-installed government, has faced mounting criticism after a demarcation agreement this month led to the handover of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia during a recent visit to Cairo by King Salman.
Sisi has defended that decision, saying that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir had been under Egyptian administration at Saudi Arabia’s request since 1950.