Egypt releases Mada Masr editor-in-chief Lina Attalah on bail

Egypt releases Mada Masr editor-in-chief Lina Attalah on bail
Attalah was released following her arrest on Sunday outside Cairo's Tora Prison where she had been interviewing Laila Soueif, the mother of imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.
3 min read
18 May, 2020
Lina Attalah has been arrested twice in less than a year [Facebook]
Egyptian authorities released Lina Attalah, the editor-in-chief of the independent Mada Masr news outlet, late on Sunday evening, after she was arrested earlier that day outside Cairo's Tora prison.

Attalah, one of Egypt's most respected independent journalists, was freed from Maadi police station in the capital three hours after a 2,000 EGP ($127) bail was paid, Mada Masr confirmed.

Fears for the journalist were heightened after she was not immediately released following the bail payment. However, the outlet tweeted a picture of Attalah outside the police station at around 11.30pm on Sunday following her release.

Security forces confiscated Attalah's phone, then arrested her at around 12pm on Sunday as she conducted an interview outside the Tora prison complex with Laila Soueif, the mother of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.

Soueif has been making regular attempts to visit the prison to deliver cleaning and medical products to her son, who has spent 35 days on hunger strike in protest of the suspension of lawyer visits and court hearings due to restrictions authorities say are in place to stop the spread of the coronvirus. 

Following Attalah's arrest, she was taken to the Maadi police station. Mada Masr's lawyers were barred from seeing her and not given any reason for her arrest.

It was later reported that Attalah had been accused of "filming a military facility [Tora Prison] without obtaining a license from the competent authorities".

Attalah was later taken in for questioning at the Maadi prosecutor’s office.

Mada Masr called for Attalah's immediate and unconditional release, saying the editor "was arrested for nothing more than doing journalism".

Attalah's arrest marked the second time she has been detained in seven months. In November 2019, Mada Masr's offices were raided by security forces and Atallah and her fellow editors and reporters were arrested.

The staff were released after the incident hit international headlines.

Mada Masr, which Attalah co-founded in 2013, has been blocked in Egypt since 2017 along with hundreds of other outlets that are deemed critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government.

Egypt has increasingly targeted journalists in an ongoing crackdown against dissidents since the 2013 military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.

The clampdown has swept up thousands of the late Morsi's Islamist supporters as well as secular activists, lawyers and academics.

On Thursday, authorities arrested journalist Haitham Mahgoub who works for a local privately-owned newspaper. His lawyer said Mahgoub faced charges of spreading false news and joining and funding a terrorist group.

Meanwhile in March, The Guardian journalist Ruth Michaelson was forced to leave the country after her credentials were revoked over a report on coronavirus infections in the country.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says at least 29 journalists are jailed in Egypt, which ranks 166th out of 180 countries in its 2020 world press freedom index.

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