Egypt detains Mada Masr's journalist Rana Mamdouh over Ras al-Hekma reporting

Egypt detains Mada Masr's journalist Rana Mamdouh over Ras al-Hekma reporting
Media freedom and civil rights have sharply deteriorated in Egypt over the past decade, and it is now ranked as the world's third-worst jailer of journalists.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
11 March, 2024
Egypt has been ranked as 'the world's third-worst jailer of journalists.' [Getty]

As World Press Freedom Day nears, Egypt has continued to crack down on journalists after Mada Masr's reporter Rana Mamdouh was reportedly detained over her journalistic work on the impact of Ras al-Hekma sale to the United Arab Emirates. 

According to the independent Mada Masr news outlet, Mamdouh was released from custody and ordered to pay 5000 Egyptian pounds (about US$100) in bail early on Monday, hours after she had been detained en route to the Mediterranean New El-Alamein city

Mamdouh was stopped at a checkpoint and asked about her destination when she showed the authorities her press card and told them she was on her way to Ras al-Hekma, a luxurious resort in the Mediterranean El-Alamein city, the statement added.

Afterwards, she was taken into custody and escorted to the nearest police station over allegedly conducting press interviews without a permit.

However, the official charges facing Mamdouh remain unclear. 

Live Story

When contacted by The New Arab, Journalists' Syndicate head Khaled El-Balshy said he had been following up her case until he made sure she was released.

"The charges against her are still uncertain; so I cannot comment on the situation in the time being until her lawyers inform me of the accusations she is facing," Balashy told TNA.

However, a security source told TNA, on condition of anonymity for not being authorised to brief the media, that "Mamdouh was about to interview Bedouin tribes who were about to be evicted from lands in Ras al-Hekma".

Most recently, Ras al-Hekma has been making news after the Egyptian government entered into a US$35 billion agreement with the UAE to develop it in a bid to generate much-needed foreign currency for the country hit hard by an unforgiving economic crisis.

The Bedouins of Ras al-Hekma have lived on the land for decades but have no ownership rights. Instead, they have customary proprietorship with no legal documents.  

Officially, the area had been owned by the Egyptian military. But last month, a presidential decree transferred it to a civilian agency affiliated with the Ministry of Housing. 

Mada Masr is arguably one of the few remaining free voices in Egypt over the past decade, which led the authorities to target its staff. The outlet is known for running investigative reports revealing alleged state irregularities.

Mamdouh's arrest on Sunday came less than a month after Mada Masr's editor-in-chief, Lina Attalah, was released on bail, pending further investigations into the charges of "publishing false news" and "running a website without a license."

The case against Attalah, an award-winning journalist, came after Mada Masr had run an investigative report on the alleged illegal role of a powerful businessman in the evacuation of distressed Palestinians from Gaza to North Sinai.

Among other significant reports that Mada Masr ran in recent years was one about the president's son, senior intelligence officer Mahmoud El-Sisi. Since then, the feud between the authorities and Mada Masr is believed to have escalated.

Over the past decade marking the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, media freedom and civil rights have sharply deteriorated in Egypt, a country ranked as the world's third-worst jailer of journalists.

Twenty-one journalists are currently behind bars, either serving time or in pretrial detention, over charges related to their work, according to the syndicate's freedoms committee.

Some 600 local and international news sites, including Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister company, have also been blocked in Egypt.