Egypt's crackdown on press continues: Mada Masr's Lina Attalah summoned for questioning

Egypt's crackdown on press continues: Mada Masr's Lina Attalah summoned for questioning
Mada Masr has been one of the remaining free voices over the past decade, running investigative reports disclosing alleged state irregularities.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
19 February, 2024
Mada Masr's chief editor Lina Attalah has been named among the Time's 100 influential figures in 2020. [Getty]

The crackdown on press freedom continues in Egypt, a country ranked the world's "third-worst jailer of journalists", as the editor-in-chief of the independent Mada Masr news outlet Lina Attalah has been summoned to appear before a Cairo prosecutor for questioning later this week.

Attalah received an official request for her presence before prosecuting authorities in Cairo, three days after the Cairo-based outlet had run on 13 February an investigative report about the alleged illegal role of powerful businessman Ibrahim El-Argany in the evacuation of distressed Palestinians from the Gaza Strip into Egypt, according to a statement by the outlet.  

Argany, known for reportedly having strong ties to the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has allegedly been linked to controlling the entry of humanitarian aid and relief efforts into the besieged strip bordering Egypt's North Sinai province.   

Lawyer Hassan El-Azhari, representing Mada Masr, said that the investigation had been based on an existing case opened after the Supreme Media Regulatory Council had reported the outlet to the prosecution for a report published in October last year about the potential displacement of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt.

"There is no further information, and it isn't clear why the investigation was postponed all this time," Azhari said.

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.

In March last year, three Mada Masr reporters were referred to trial over allegedly offending lawmakers affiliated with a high-profile political party in a report published in August of the previous year.

Earlier in December 2022, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected an appeal by Mada Masr to challenge an official non-acceptance of the Cairo-based news outlet's license to operate in the country.

Two months earlier, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation suspended the outlet for six months over allegedly "operating without a license, publishing fabricated news and inflicting harm on the national security."

The outlet is known for running investigative reports revealing alleged state irregularities.

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Among the significant reports 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 has escalated.

In the month the report was published, November 2019, plain-clothed security forces raided the Mada Masr office and held three senior reporters inside the premises, including the editor-in-chief, Lina Attalah, and confiscated their laptops and mobile phones for several hours.     

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

"Journalists who violate the unannounced manifesto imposed by the security apparatus commonly face terrorism-related charges," a former board member of the Journalists' Syndicate told The New Arab on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.

"Mada Masr is one of the brave outlets that the authorities have been seeking several times before to silence, especially that it is run in both English and Arabic, which makes it easier to be heard abroad," the board member added.

Atallah, named among four influential Arab figures by Time magazine in 2020, could not be reached for comment.