The IPI global network calls on Egyptian authorities to immediately drop charges against Lina Attalah, editor-in-chief of independent news outlet Mada Masr, a past recipient of the IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer award. Additionally, Egypt’s Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) to stop censoring the critical press.

Attalah was questioned by prosecutors for nearly two hours on February 20 on charges of “publishing false news without checking its sources” and “running a website without a license”. At the end of the hearing, she was released on bail of 5000 Egyptian pounds (about 140 euros), and her case is now awaiting further proceedings.

According to Mada Masr, the charges stem from a report it published in October about Egypt possibly preparing to accept Palestinian refugees fleeing Israel’s bombing. Following the report, the SCMR imposed a six-month ban on Mada Masr’s website, claiming the outlet had published “inflammatory” content that undermined Egypt’s national security. The SCMR then submitted a case to prosecutors. 

Attalah’s questioning was initially scheduled for December but was postponed for unclear reasons. However, Attalah was summoned again in February, three days after Mada Masr published another piece about the role of businessman Ibrahim al-Argany coordinating the movement of goods and people at the border crossing of Egypt and Gaza Strip. 

Named as the IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer in 2019, Mada Masr is one of the few remaining independent media outlets in Egypt. Its journalists, including Attalah, have been constantly targeted by the authorities for their critical reporting. Mada Masr has attempted to get a website license since 2018 to no avail

“IPI condemns the continued harassment of Mada Masr and Lina Attalah, who are clearly being targeted for their independent reporting, in this case, on Egypt’s policies toward Gaza”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said.

“The latest charges are further evidence of a years-long pattern in Egypt of cracking down on the free press – and of an even broader global pattern of governments abusing ‘false news’ laws to silence anything that deviates from their narrative. We call on the authorities to drop all charges against Lina Attalah, rescind the ban on Mada Masr’s website, and allow IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer Mada Masr and allow other media outlets in Egypt to operate freely and independently.”

Egypt has tightened its stranglehold on freedom of the press in recent years. At least 155 journalists have been imprisoned in the country since 2018.