Pompeo calls on Egypt to respect press freedom after crackdown

Washington (AFP) –


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Tuesday on close ally Egypt to respect freedom of the press after a crackdown that followed protests.

Pompeo made the call unprompted at a news conference after more robust criticism of adversary Iran, which has severed internet access as it also clamps down on demonstrators.

"As part of our longstanding strategic relationship 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.

"We call on the Egyptian government to respect freedom of the press and release journalists detained during a raid last weekend," he said.

Egypt jails more journalists than any country other than China and Turkey, according to the New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists.

In one of the most recent episodes, plain-clothed officers raided the Cairo office of news outlet Mada Masr, demanding that journalists unlock and hand over their phones and laptops.

Three journalists including chief editor Lina Attallah were arrested but released later from a police station.

Pompeo's statement comes despite warm relations between President Donald Trump and his counterpart Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, with the US leader hailing the former military chief's opposition to the Islamism.