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Independent Egyptian media outlet says top editor arrested

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 5/17/2020
In this Nov. 24, 2017 photo, Lina Attalah, editor-in-chief of Mada Masr, a prominent investigative media outlet in Egypt, participates in a panel discussion at cultural center  in Cairo, Egypt. Mada Masr said editor Lina Attalah was arrested Sunday, May 17, 2020, outside Cairo’s Tora prison complex. She was there to interview the mother of a prominent jailed activist. It's the latest arrest amid a wider crackdown on dissent. (AP Photo/Roger Anis) © Provided by Associated Press In this Nov. 24, 2017 photo, Lina Attalah, editor-in-chief of Mada Masr, a prominent investigative media outlet in Egypt, participates in a panel discussion at cultural center in Cairo, Egypt. Mada Masr said editor Lina Attalah was arrested Sunday, May 17, 2020, outside Cairo’s Tora prison complex. She was there to interview the mother of a prominent jailed activist. It's the latest arrest amid a wider crackdown on dissent. (AP Photo/Roger Anis)

CAIRO (AP) — A prominent investigative media outlet in Egypt said security forces detained its editor-in-chief Sunday, the latest arrest amid a wider crackdown on dissent and media.

Mada Masr, one of a shrinking number of independent news websites in Egypt, said Lina Attalah was arrested outside Cairo’s Tora prison complex during an interview with Laila Soueif, the mother of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.

The outlet said Attalah was being held at a police station in southern Cairo, officials there said, and would be questioned by prosecutors Monday.

Amnesty International called Attalah’s detention a “shocking development,” and called for her to be “immediately and unconditionally released.”

Abdel Fattah served a five-year prison sentence for violating Egypt’s protest ban. In September, not long after his release, he was arrested again amid a widespread crackdown that followed small protests demanding current President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi step down — although he did not participate in the protests.

The activist went on hunger strike over a month ago, and his family has been struggling to get him released in recent months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Soueif was briefly arrested in March along with three others after they staged a protest to demand the release of prisoners amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

Mada Masr is one of the hundreds of websites blocked by the Egyptian government in recent years. The outlet has continued to publish through mirror sites. It has produced investigative pieces looking into some of Egypt’s government institutions, including the intelligence agencies, military and presidency.

El-Sissi’s government has repeatedly harassed Mada Masr and its journalists. In November, security forces raided its offices, briefly detaining Attalah and two other journalists and later releasing them.

The November raid came just a day after Mada Masr said security forces arrested one of its editors, Shady Zalat, from his home in Cairo. Zalat was later released.

Attallah’s detention is the latest in a widening government crackdown on dissent and media. Earlier this month a local journalist and freelance photographer were arrested on charges of joining and financing a “terrorist group” as well as spreading “fake news” that threatens national security.

In recent years, Egypt has imprisoned dozens of reporters and occasionally expelled some foreign journalists. It remains among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to the the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit group that works to defend press freedoms.

El-Sissi, a general-turned-president, has overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands. As defense minister, he led the military’s removal in 2013 of Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, after Morsi's one-year rule proved divisive and sparked massive nationwide protests.

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