Egypt: Mada Masr editor Lina Attalah released on bail

News outlet says its editor-in-chief was arrested by Egyptian security forces outside Cairo’s Tora Prison complex.

Lina Attalah
President el-Sisi's government has repeatedly harassed Mada Masr and its journalists [File: Roger Anis/AP Photo]

The editor-in-chief of a prominent investigative media outlet in Egypt, Mada Masr, has been released hours after being arrested by security forces in Cairo.

Lina Attalah was arrested outside the capital’s Tora Prison complex where she was interviewing Laila Soueif, the mother of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.

She was released on bail late on Sunday.

According to the media outlet, Attalah remained in police custody for about three hours after her bail fee of 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($126.53) was paid, before being released from the police station in Maadi, a Cairo neighbourhood.

Lawyer Hassan al-Azhari had told AFP news agency that the reason behind the arrest and the charges against Attallah were unclear.

Attalah’s arrest is the latest amid a wider crackdown on dissent in the North African country.

Mada Masr is one of the hundreds of websites blocked by the Egyptian government in recent years.

The outlet has continued to publish through mirror sites. It has produced investigative pieces looking into some of Egypt’s government institutions, including intelligence agencies, military and the presidency.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government has repeatedly harassed Mada Masr and its journalists. In November, security forces raided its offices, briefly detaining Attalah and two other journalists.

The November raid came just a day after Mada Masr said security forces arrested one of its editors, Shady Zalat, from his home in Cairo. Zalat was later released.

Media clampdown

Egypt has increasingly targeted journalists in an continuing crackdown against dissidents since the 2013 military removal of then-President Mohamed Morsi.

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

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

Egyptian officials have increasingly deployed the vague accusation of “fake news” to silence and jail critics in the government’s sweeping and often indiscriminate crackdown on dissent.

Last week, security forces arrested Haisam Hasan Mahgoub, a journalist who regularly wrote for the independent daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Mahgoub was arrested on Wednesday on charges of joining and financing a “terrorist group” as well as spreading “fake news” that threatens national security, according to his lawyer.

Earlier this month, a local journalist and a freelance photographer were arrested on charges of joining and financing a “terrorist group” as well as spreading “fake news” that threatens national security.

Among dozens of media workers imprisoned in Egypt is Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Hussein, a Doha-based journalist who was arrested in 2016 during a visit to his family in Cairo.

He has been held without charge for more than 1,200 days, and there are concerns for his health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies