Rights groups slam Egypt arrest of news outlet founder

Al-Manassa editor-in-chief Nora Younis arrested; family of US national who filed lawsuit against former PM harassed.

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Egypt was the named the world's third-worst jailer of journalists in the 2019 Committee to Protect Journalists report. [Drew Angerer/AFP]

Egyptian authorities have been condemned by rights groups for raiding an independent news outlet and arresting its editor-in-chief as well as harassing the family of a US national who filed a lawsuit against a former prime minister over human rights abuses.

On Wednesday night, Egyptian security forces raided the offices of al-Manassa news outlet and arrested its Editor-in-Chief Nora Younis, al-Manassa said on Twitter.

According to al-Manassa, officers claiming to work for the censorship investigation bureau broke into the office and arrested Younis, who was taken to a police station in Cairo’s Maadi district.

In a Twitter post, Amnesty International condemned the arrest as the “latest attack on critical voices in media” in Egypt.

“Policemen claimed to be checking software licenses but did not present an arrest or search warrant,” said Amnesty, adding that Younis was taken to the police station after being told her laptop needed to be inspected.

Younis, who worked at the Washington Post and as a managing editor for Egypt’s popular daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, won the Human Rights First award in 2008 for her work in the media to expose human rights violations and police brutality.

She founded al-Manassa in 2015.

According to the independent Egyptian news site Mada Masr, al-Manassa and at least 500 other websites have been blocked in Egypt since 2017.

Egypt was named the world’s third-worst jailer of journalists in the 2019 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In March, Egyptian authorities deported Guardian journalist Ruth Michaelson after she reported on a study that claimed Egypt was likely to have many more coronavirus cases than officially announced.

In May, Lina Attalah, editor-in-chief of Mada Masr, was arrested and detained for several hours after interviewing the mother of an imprisoned activist. She was released on bail following international condemnation.

Journalist Haisam Hasan Mahgoub was also arrested in May and held over allegations of spreading false news.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Hussein has been in held in an Egyptian prison without charges for more than three years.

Al Jazeera’s has called on the Egyptian government to release Hussein and other journalists, citing deep concerns about his health amid the coronavirus outbreak, but the calls have gone unanswered.

Harassment, intimidation

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised the “ongoing harassment and intimidation by Egyptian security forces of the family of a US national seeking justice, truth, and reparation”, in a statement on Wednesday.

According to a statement filed in a US court by human rights advocate Mohamed Soltan, Egyptian security forces raided the homes of his relatives in Egypt on June 9 and 15.

HRW said security forces arrested and disappeared of five of Soltan’s cousins for two days.


On June 1, Soltan filed a lawsuit in a US court against former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi over allegations of torture and other human rights violations.

The lawsuit accused el-Beblawi of coordinating with other Egyptian officials to oversee Soltan’s arrest and extensive torture at several detention facilities, as detailed in the court documents, including beatings, denial of medical treatment and burns to his body, as well as prison guards encouraging him to take his own life, according to a Washington Post report.

It also named, as “unsued defendants”, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, current intelligence chief Abbas Kamel who was a Sisi chief of staff, and others, who could be served if they arrive in the US, according to the Post.

Soltan told HRW he believed the arrests were made to “force him to drop the case” against el-Beblawi.

Source: Al Jazeera