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Mada Masr faces crackdown by Egyptian government once again

Mada Masr faces crackdown by Egyptian government once again for report on corruption
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
05 September, 2022
In a country ranked as the world's third jailer of journalists, Egyptian independent online news outlet Mada Masr has been among the few remaining outlets attempting to survive against an authoritarian rule.
Mada Masr has been among the free remaining voices in Egypt running against an authoritarian current. [Getty]

In yet another blow to press freedom in Egypt,  a Mada Masr journalist has been summoned over the weekend for interrogation before the Luxor prosecution in the south about a news story on suspected corruption at a major political party, the independent news outlet said in a statement.

The journalist, whose name was not specified in the statement, is believed to have been accused of spreading false news among other charges, following a news bulletin run on 31 August and co-written by three reporters: Rana Mamdouh, Beesan Kassab and Sara Seif Eddin.

In the bulletin in question, Mada Masr reported accusations of corruption against several senior members of Mostsaqbal Watan (Nation's Future) party leaders investigated by official oversight bodies, leading to a decision to expel them from the political scene, the statement read. 

The claims were denied one day later by the party.

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As a result, several MPs, affiliated with the party, filed dozens of complaints across Egypt against the three female reporters as well as Mada Masr's CEO, according to legal paperwork and sources close to the party who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.

"Mada Masr regards the summons for interrogation as an expected development consistent with the significant pressure that journalists working in Egypt have been subject to in recent years," the outlet noted.

"This is an old tactic" to increase pressure and oblige the subjects of the complaints to appear before different prosecutors, the defence team said.

The outlet's lawyers intend to petition the public prosecutor to merge the complaints into one investigation to avoid parallel proceedings before different investigating bodies.

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.

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

In 2021, Egypt has been ranked the world's third-worst jailer of journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists, with at least 60 behind bars.

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

Among the significant reports run by the outlet is one about 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 same month, the report was published, plain-clothed security forces raided the office and held three senior journalists inside the premises, including the editor-in-chief, Lina 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.

In the same year, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR), known for being loyal to the regime, banned journalists and social media users from reporting on sensitive political and economic issues. Other restrictions were imposed over the following years on reporting about subjects such as army data or religion.

"Mada Masr's defence team intends to take legal measures to ask the public prosecutor to hear the organization’s leadership and journalists' testimonials in the above-mentioned complaint and any other complaint on the same issue," the statement said.