Egypt: Mada 3 journalists charged with bogus offenses, chief editor with operating unlicensed site

Mada Masr Editor-in-Chief Lina Attalah, journalists Rana Mamdouh, Sara Seif Eddin and Beesan Kassab were released on bail on Wednesday evening after interrogation sessions at the Cairo Appeals Prosecution.

The Mada Masr editor-in-chief and three journalists were charged with several offenses today after the pro-regime Nation’s Future party filed dozens of complaints against them over their reporting.

The three journalists were accused of spreading false news, insulting Nation’s Future Party. However, the outlet’s editor-in-chief faces charge of operating unlicensed news site.

The four journalists were charged with slander and defamation of Nation’s Future Party members, using social media to harass party members, and publishing false news intended to disturb public peace and damage public interest. Attalah also faces charges of operating a website without a license.

All four were questioned individually and concurrently, said lawyers acting in their defense.

Mada Masr female journalists while taking a photo in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office in New Cairo after their release.

The Nation’s Future Party, which has a majority in both chambers of parliament and is close to ruling figures, began its attacks against Mada Masr, one of Egypt’s few remaining independent media outlets, after the outlet reported on a planned shake-up in the party over corruption allegations.

MPs then launched a wave of complaints against reporters Rana Mamdouh, Sara Seif Eddin, and Beesan Kassab—never mind that none of the three was involved in writing the relevant piece—and Editor-in-Chief Lina Attalah at police stations across the country.

Mada Masr accused the lawmakers of filing the complaints in separate locations in an attempt to “​​fragment the efforts of the defendants’ defense and to cause them to miss scheduled appearances before various investigating bodies.”

Mada Masr has requested legal representation from the Journalists Syndicate and petitioned prosecutors to merge all of the complaints into a single case.

“For its part, 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 wrote.

“We also express our regret that the majority political party in Egypt, known to be proximate to power, is using such tactics to intimidate a press outlet that is operating on behalf of public interest.

Rather than inform the public as to what is really happening, the party has resorted to these tactics to avoid frank discussion about the accusations facing the party and its leaders.”

The party denied the news “in its entirety” and threatened legal action, describing the target of publication as “shaking the security and stability of the country,” without referring to specific details of the coverage.

Organizations including Amnesty International, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, and the Committee to Protect Journalists all voiced solidarity with the journalists and denounced the regime’s latest attack on the media.

The four went to the Public Prosecution office in New Cairo today, where prosecutors charged them with “publishing false news that would disturb public peace and harm the public interest,” “misusing social media,” and “insulting and slandering Nation’s Future Party deputies in parliament.”

Attalah received an additional charge of “creating a website without a license.”

Mada Masr has reportedly attempted since 2018 to obtain licensing under the new law regulating the press, submitting paperwork on multiple occasions, making official inquiries into the status of the application and attempting to contact officials at the press regulatory authority.

Until now, Mada Masr has received no response regarding its legal status. According to the law, the Supreme Media Regulatory Council must notify the sites or entities that are refused a license or have not completed the necessary documents.

However, all four journalists were later released on bail.