4 Mada Masr journalists charged with 'defaming' pro-Sisi political party, 'disrupting social peace'

4 Mada Masr journalists charged with 'defaming' pro-Sisi political party, 'disrupting social peace'
The Egyptian government crackdown against independent outlet Mada Masr has continued leading to four journalists being charged with slander and disruption of social peace by a news report on alleged corruption at a political party loyal to Sisi.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
08 September, 2022
Award-winning journalist Lina Attallah has been accused of running a news website without a license. [Getty]

Crackdown on press freedom in Egypt continues, a country ranked the world's third-worst jailer of journalists, as four Egyptian Mada Masr journalists were charged with "slandering and defaming" a high-profile political party.

The four journalists, including award-winning Editor-in-chief Lina Attallah, were also accused by the Cairo prosecution of allegedly using social media to harass the party members and publishing false news intended to disturb the public peace and cause damage to the public interest, the independent news outlet said in an evening statement on Wednesday.  

Attallah, as well as the three reporters Rana Mamdouh, Sara Seif Eddin and Beesan Kassab, were questioned individually and concurrently over a news report run on 31 August that included accusations of corruption against several senior members of Mostsaqbal Watan (the Nation's Future) party, known for being loyal to the regime of Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. 

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According to the report in question, the senior party members were investigated by official oversight bodies leading to a decision to expel them from the political scene.

As a result, several MPs, affiliated with the party filed dozens of complaints across Egypt against the outlet journalists and Attallah.

The prosecution ordered Attallah to pay 20,000 EGP (around US$1,040) and the three female journalists 5,000 EGP (about US$260) each.

A defence team and press syndicate representatives attended the interrogation.

Over the weekend, a Mada Masr journalist, whose name was not specified by the outlet, had been summoned for interrogation before Luxor prosecution in southern Egypt on Monday.

No further details were immediately available about the outcome of the interrogation conducted in Luxor.

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Meanwhile, Attalah also faces charges of operating a website without a license.

"Mada Masr has attempted since 2018 to obtain licensing under the new law regulating the press, submitting paperwork on multiple occasions, making official inquiries into the status of the application and attempting to contact officials at the press regulatory authority. Until now, Mada Masr has received no response regarding its legal status," the statement by Mada Masr read.

The law dictates that the Supreme Media Regulatory Council must notify the sites or entities that are refused a license or have not completed the necessary documents.

The state of the media and journalism in Egypt deteriorated sharply after the then-defence minister Sisi, overthrew the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, on 3 July 2013.

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Over 500 local and international websites of organisations and news outlets, including Mada Masr and The New Arab and Human Rights Watch, have been banned in the country over the past years. 

Mada Masr has been among the few remaining outlets attempting to swim against the authoritarian tide, offering its readers quality journalism in both Arabic and English.

Among the significant reports by the outlet is one regarding president Sisi's son, senior intelligence agency officer Mahmoud El-Sisi, published in 2019.

Since then, the feud between the authorities and Mada Masr is thought to have escalated. In the month the report was published, plain-clothed security forces raided the office and held three senior journalists inside the premises, including Attalah, after confiscating their laptops and mobile phones, for several hours.

Almost one year later, Attalah was subjected to an act of intimidation when she was detained while interviewing mathematics professor Laila Soueif, the mother of jailed prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, outside Tora maximum-security prison in Cairo.