Egypt’s independent Mada Masr news outlet loses battle for legal recognition

Egypt’s independent Mada Masr news outlet loses battle for legal recognition
Mada Masr has been this year suspended for six months over allegedly "operating without a license, running fabricated news and jeopardising national security.
2 min read
Egypt - Cairo
20 December, 2023
Mada Masr is known for being one of the few remaining free voices in Egypt. [Getty]

The crackdown on press freedom continues in Egypt, a country ranked as the world's "third-worst jailer of journalists", as the Supreme Administrative Court rejected on Tuesday, 19 December, an appeal by Mada Masr to challenge an official nonacceptance of the Cairo-based news outlet's license to operate in the country.

Earlier in 2018 and again in 2020, Mada Masr applied for a license, submitting the necessary documents to the state-run Supreme Council for Media Regulation, but never received a response to either of the two requests till now, Mada Masr said in a statement.

"Mada Masr is known for being at odds with the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for arguably being one of the remaining free voices among mostly pro-regime outlets, which led the authorities to target the local news site," a board member in the country's journalists syndicate told The New Arab, on the condition of anonymity.

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"It's normal for the authorities to keep nailing Mada Masr and its staff, being recognised locally and internationally for running investigative reports that revealed state irregularities," the source added.

In October this year, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation suspended Mada Masr for six months over allegedly "operating without a license, publishing fabricated news and inflicting harm on the national security."

The media regulator further referred the online news site to the prosecutor-general over a report it published recently on the Israeli plan to displace the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip into Egypt's North Sinai province.

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Among the significant reports Mada Masr ran in recent years was one about the son of President Sisi, senior intelligence officer Mahmoud El-Sisi. Since then, the feud between the authorities and Mada Masr has considerably 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, after confiscating their laptops and mobile phones for several hours.

Almost a year later, Attalah was subjected to 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 and released the following day.

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Earlier this past March, 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.

Meanwhile, Attalah could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.