The editor-in-chief and three journalists from independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr were interrogated by judicial officers on Wednesday for allegedly “spreading false information”, the publication said on Twitter.
Mada Masr head Lina Attalah and journalists Rana Mamdouh, Sara Seif Eddin and Beesan Kassab were summoned following complaints from members of the pro-government Mostakbal Watan (Future of a Nation) party over an article accusing them of “serious financial infractions” that “should lead to their departure from the political scene”.
According to Mada Masr, the four journalists - who were released on bail in the evening - were accused of defamation and “online harassment” as well as “spreading false information with an aim to destabilise the country”.
While Egypt's 2014 constitution guarantees freedom of the press, the country has around 20 journalists behind bars and is regularly criticised for its human rights record, with more than 60,000 prisoners of conscience, several of them imprisoned for “spreading false information”, according to international NGOs.
Egypt was ranked 168 out of 180 countries on the 2022 press freedom index compiled by the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Mada Masr is an online outlet that publishes investigations into matters involving security and corruption in both Arabic and English.
The publication -- which is often critical of the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi -- is one of hundreds of news sites blocked by the authorities in recent years, and cannot be accessed in Egypt without a VPN.
In late 2019, police searched the publication's offices in Cairo and arrested three journalists, including Attalah, who was briefly detained again in May of 2020.
RSF on Wednesday said it was “extremely concerned by this threat to one of the few remaining Egyptian media outlets not to have been brought under the government's control”.
“The constant harassment, intimidation and arrests of journalists by Egypt's government are reaching dangerous heights and must cease at once.”
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