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Egypt arrests editor-in-chief of prominent independent news site

Lina Attalah's arrest marks the latest setback for Mada Masr, described as Egypt's 'last bastion of free press'
Mada Masr editor-in-chief Lina Attalah was detained while interviewing the mother of an imprisoned activist (Social)

Egyptian authorities have arrested the editor of prominent Egyptian independent news site Mada Masr, which the government has subjected to a campaign of arrests, raids and bans. 

Lina Attalah was detained after interviewing the mother of imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah outside Tora prison, according to a Mada Masr statement on Sunday. 

The publication said she was being held by police overnight to face questioning by prosecutors on Monday, then later tweeted that the prosecution ordered her release on bail of 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($127). Attalah was sent back to Maadi police station to finalise her release procedures, it said, according to AFP.

"Mada Masr Editor-in-chief Lina Attalah was arrested for nothing more than doing journalism. We hold authorities responsible for her well-being and call for her immediate and unconditional release," Mada Masr posted on Facebook. 

Attalah's arrest quickly prompted criticism from journalists and press freedom advocates on social media. 

"Lina Attalah's bravery and leadership through the toughest of times has inspired journalists across the region. Her detention should be deeply concerning to anyone who cares about press freedom," tweeted Louisa Loveluck, the Washington Post's Baghdad bureau chief. 

Attalah and other editors were previously detained in November 2019, when Egyptian forces raided the Mada Masr offices, rounding up staff and confiscating equipment. 

Mada Masr has been described as Egypt's "last bastion of free press" and has published reports and investigations critical of Egypt's government. Its website is blocked inside Egypt. 

Press freedom group the Committee to Protect Journalists called the November raid part of a "retaliation campaign" against Mada Masr's critical reporting. 

Egyptian authorities also arrested journalist Haisam Hasan Mahgoub this week, holding him over allegations of spreading false news and funding a terrorist group. 

“While some governments worldwide pardon prisoners during the time of Covid-19, Egypt is determined to keep its prisons full of journalists instead of letting them cover the pandemic and other news events freely," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour.