The head of Egypt's journalist union and two board members have been charged for "publishing false news" and harboring two wanted journalists. Rights groups condemned the charges.
Egyptian journalist union chief Yahiya Kallash (pictured), secretary general Gamal Abdul-Rahim and the head of its freedoms committee Gamal Abd el-Rahim were formally charged late Monday after hours of questioning.
They were arrested on Sunday in what Amnesty International described as the most brazen attack on the media the country has seen in decades.
"The arrest of key media figures at the Press Syndicate signals a dangerous escalation of the Egyptian authorities' draconian clampdown on freedom of expression," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
The three were charged "harboring suspects against whom an arrest warrant has been issued" and "publishing false news." They were reportedly released late Monday pending trial after first refusing to pay bail.
The charges relate to a May 2 police raid to arrest two journalists at the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. Kallash and the union criticized the arrests and called on the interior minister to resign. The arrests triggered protests by thousands of journalists.
The interior ministry denies using heavy handed tactics to arrest Mahmoud El Sakka and Amr Badr, who face charges of spreading lies and owning a firearm. They work for opposition website Bawabet Yanayer.
The three union officials will go on trial Saturday and could be sent to prison if found guilty.
cw/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)