The undersigned civil society organizations condemn the Public Prosecution’s decision to refer Bissan Kassab, Rana Mamdouh, and Sarah Seif Eldin, three female journalists from independent Egyptian media outlet Mada Masr,
to the Economic Court in Mansoura, Dakahlia Governorate on charges of
insulting members of parliament (MPs) of the pro-government Mostaqbal
Watan Party and misusing social media.
The organizations call on the Egyptian
authorities to drop all the charges levelled against the three
journalists, and stop the crackdown on independent media outlets and
The case started when Mada Masr
published a report on 31 August 2022 quoting sources within the
Mostaqbal Watan Party as saying that state oversight agencies had
implicated senior members of the party in “grave financial violations”
that could result in their removal from their positions. This prompted
party members to file hundreds of complaints in different geographical
areas against the outlet.
On 7 September 2022, the prosecution
summoned the three journalists, in addition to the website’s
editor-in-chief Lina Atallah, for interrogation over at least 500
complaints that had been filed and that were included in Case No. 19 of
2022 (Cairo Appeals Investigations). The chief appeal prosecutor noted
that up to 800 other complaints had not been included in the case.
The prosecution charged the
journalists with spreading false news that would disturb public peace
and harm the public interest, causing a disturbance via social media,
and insulting and slandering the MPs of the Mostaqbal Watan Party. The
prosecution also levelled an additional charge against Atallah of
creating a website without a license. This is despite the fact that Mada Masr
has submitted several requests for a license, but the Supreme Council
for Media Regulation (SCMR) has ignored all of them. During the
investigation, the SCMR told the Public Prosecution for the first time
that it had rejected the outlet’s licensing requests.
After the interrogation concluded,
the Public Prosecution released the journalists on a bail of 20,000
Egyptian pounds for Atallah, and 5,000 pounds for each of the other
three journalists. Despite this, complaints did not stop, and the
journalists have not previously been investigated or even notified of
A citizen filed a complaint at the Kafr Saqr police station in Sharqia Governorate, accusing the Mada Masr
journalists of insulting leaders of the Mostaqbal Watan Party and
offending national leaders, which could threaten the stability and
societal peace in the country.
In a related context, on March 22, the Administrative Court is considering Mada Masr's
appeal against the Supreme Council for Media Regulation's decision to
refuse to license the website despite meeting the license conditions and
applying for it more than four years ago.
These measures against Mada Masr occur as part of the ongoing crackdown on independent media outlets and the intimidation of journalists
to prevent them from performing their work freely in Egypt. This
crackdown has included the continued blocking of news websites, the
imprisonment of journalists, and the rejection of licensing requests for
news websites. These actions send a message that the Egyptian
authorities’ declared intentions to reportedly improve the human rights
situation in the country are not serious.
The undersigned organizations come together to condemn the Mostaqbal Watan Party’s harassment of Mada Masr
journalists through legal prosecution, instead of requesting a response
and publishing the party’s rebuttal to what was mentioned in their
report. The undersigned also condemn Egyptian judicial authorities’ move
to refer these complaints to trial, in a measure that constitutes an
unjustified escalation and places more restrictions on journalists’
right to access and publish information.
The undersigned call on Egyptian judicial authorities to close investigations into all cases and complaints filed against Mada Masr
and its journalists and to drop all the charges levelled against them.
The Supreme Council for Media Regulation should also grant a license to
the Mada Masr website.