Editor-in-chief of prominent independent news site arrested in Egypt

Egyptian security services arrested the editor-in-chief of prominent independent media Mada Masr on Sunday, said her lawyer, the latest in a crackdown on journalists.

Lina Attallah was arrested outside Tora prison in Cairo while interviewing rights activist Laila Soueif, mother of imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, the newspaper said.

“The prison security guards asked Attallah to show her his identity card and then summoned her for an investigation that lasted three hours,” lawyer Hassan al-Azhari told AFP.

“We later learned that she had been taken to a police station in the Maadi district and that she would appear before the prosecution tomorrow (Monday) morning,” he said.

Azhari added that the reason for the arrest and the charges against Attallah were unclear.

Mada Masr is an Egyptian online outlet that investigates corruption and security issues in Arabic and English.

Its website has been blocked in recent years in Egypt, along with a hundred other critics of the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.

The publication sought to circumvent the blockage via mirror sites.

Press freedom crackdown warnings

Attalah’s arrest comes as various human rights and press freedom groups warned against stepping up the crackdown on press freedom in Egypt in Sisi.

“Since 2016, the Egyptian authorities have subjected dozens of journalists and other media professionals to a catalog of violations solely for doing their job or expressing their opinions. Dozens of journalists have been arbitrarily arrested on false “terrorism” charges or have been searched at their workplaces, “said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director of research and advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa. in a report earlier this month.

In November, security forces raided Mada Masr’s Cairo offices and interrogated journalists there.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Thursday that Egyptian authorities had arrested journalist Haitham Mahgoub, who works for a local private newspaper.

Quoting his lawyer, CPJ said Mahgoub was facing charges of spreading false news and of joining and funding a terrorist group.

In March, the British newspaper The Guardian said that its reporter in Egypt had been forced to leave after his credentials were revoked following a report on coronavirus infections in the country.

Egypt is targeting more and more journalists as part of an ongoing crackdown on dissidents since the military ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The crackdown swept across thousands of late Morsi’s Islamist supporters as well as secular activists, lawyers and academics.

Egypt ranks 166th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)