Three journalists from Mada Masr, Egypt’s most prominent independent news outlet, have been referred to trial on charges of offending pro-regime members of parliament.
The allegedly offended MPs belong to from the pro-government “Nation’s Future” party. Besides offending the Nation’s Future” party MPs, the three Mada Masr journalists face charges of misusing media channels, reported Reuters, citing the independent news outlet.
If convicted, the three reporters, all women, could face from six months to two years in prison, as well as fines of up to 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($9,810), Mada Masr said in an article about the case.
The case stems from a Mada Masr article reported by the three journalists and published last year, which said a state inquiry had implicated members of the Nation’s Future party in “gross financial misconduct”.
Rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, and the Committee to Protect Journalists all then voiced solidarity with the journalists and denounced the regime’s latest attack on the media.
The party, which strongly supports Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and is a dominant force in Egypt’s parliament, denied the report prepared by the Mada Masr reporters, and its members and followers submitted hundreds of complaints against the journalists.
Mada Masr is one of the few independent outlets struggling to operate in Egypt after a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent and curbs on independent civil society.
Its website is blocked within Egypt and its Cairo offices were raided in 2019.
Its editor, Lina Attalah, has been charged with founding a website without a licence. Mada Masr says it has attempted since 2018 to obtain a license under a new law regulating the press, but has received no response to repeated inquiries.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranks Egypt 168th out of 180 countries surveyed in its press freedom index, and says 24 journalists are currently jailed in the country.
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.