Mada Masr Editor Detained After Media Reveals Corruption In Egypt's Ruling Party
The latest report from the Egyptian media about charges against editor-in-chief Lina Attalah and three colleagues following a Sept. 1 article that revealed a scandal within the ruling Nation's Future party.
Note from the Worldcrunch news desk: The independent Egyptian online media Mada Masr, which publishes in Arabic and English, has been a Worldcrunch partner since 2015. As they face further repression and attempts to limit their coverage by government authorities, we are republishing their updates below, and stand together with Mada Masr's editor Linah Attalah and her team in their long efforts for a free press in Egypt:
Mada Masr Editor-in-Chief Lina Attalah, journalists Rana Mamdouh, Sara Seif Eddin and Beesan Kassab were released on bail on Wednesday evening after interrogation sessions at the Cairo Appeals Prosecution.
All four were questioned individually and concurrently, said lawyers acting in their defense.
In Wednesday’s session, Attalah, Mamdouh, Seif Eddin and Kassab were charged with slander and defamation of Nation’s Future Party members, using social media to harass the party members, and publishing false news intended to disturb the public peace and cause damage to the public interest.
Attalah also faces charges of operating a website without a license.
Mada Masr has 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.
For more on our decision to apply for a license under the new media law, you can read our statement published in 2018 soon after we submitted our paperwork for the first time.
Bail for Attalah was set at LE20,000 ($1,037), and at LE5,000 ($259) for the three other journalists.
The four Mada Masr staff members appeared before the prosecution on Wednesday, one day after receiving a summons following dozens of complaints submitted by MPs and members of the Nation’s Future Party to prosecuting authorities across the country mentioning Mamdouh, Seif Eddin and Kassab, as well as Mada’s chief executive, whose name was not noted. The complaints accused them of publishing false news, among other charges.
Shaking security and stability
Lawyers Hassan al-Azhary, Nasser Amin and Journalists Syndicate member Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafiz attended the interrogation session with Attalah, while Ahmed Osman, Tarek Khater, Fatma Serag and a syndicate lawyer attended the session with Mamdouh. Lawyers Rajia Amran and Ahmed Abdel Naby and syndicate member Doaa al-Nagar with Kassab, and lawyers Hoda Nasrallah, Nada Saad Eddin and a syndicate lawyer attended with Seif Eddin.
The legal complaints filed against the three journalists came as their names were in the byline of the Aug. 31 edition of Mada Masr’s Nashra, which contained news that oversight bodies had implicated senior members of Nation’s Future — a party with close links to the corridors of power — in “grave financial violations” expected to result in their removal from the political scene.
The party denied the news “in its entirety” and threatened legal action, describing the target of publication as “shaking the security and stability of the country,” without referring to specific details of the coverage.
The original story
*Editor’s note: A version of the news below was published on Wednesday evening in Arabic. The version in English below reflects a denial of the news, issued in a statement by the Nation’s Future Party on Thursday. You can read a full response from Mada Masr in which we address the party’s denial and other accusations in its statement, here.
Sources from the Nation’s Future Party told Mada Masr that a “sovereign entity” is preparing to carry out a shakeup among the senior ranks of the party, which holds a majority in both parliamentary houses and close ties with the ruling authority.
The shakeup, said four sources who are members of the party’s governing body and central secretariat, follows instances of corruption and abuse of power by Nation’s Future leadership figures and is set to take place before Parliament resumes session in October after its summer recess.
The party described the target of publication as “shaking the security and stability of the country.”
Nation’s Future published a statement on Thursday asserting that the information — which Mada Masr published on Wednesday evening in Arabic — was untrue. The party claimed to have noted several news items published by Mada Masr about the party and its leaders that it described as “aiming to shake the public’s confidence” in the party. The party said it would take legal action against journalists and editors at Mada Masr.
Grave financial violations
Sources also said that a legal complaint, of which Mada Masr reviewed a copy, is being circulated among several of the party’s representatives in the lower parliamentary house for them to sign and submit to the public prosecutor. The complaint levels charges of “insult, slander and defamation,” against Mada Masr’s chief executive, the editor of the news item published on Wednesday, and three of the website’s journalists. Mada Masr was unable to confirm at the time of writing whether the charges had been filed with the Public Prosecution.
The four sources told Mada Masr that state oversight agencies have determined that prominent figures within the party’s governing body were involved in “grave financial violations,” chief among which, they said, are instances of abuse of power and profiteering through the assistance of businessmen in the irregular construction of buildings and towers and subsequent reconciliation of their legal status in several governorates.
The sources said that the most prominent figure to be impacted by the shakeup would be the party’s secretary general and first vice president, Ashraf Rashad, who they said was accused of abusing and profiting from his position and influence and whose fortune and private ventures have grown, they added, especially as he has de facto assumed the responsibilities of party head.
The sources all noted that Rashad is soon to be removed from his position at the party, and from the helm of the parliamentary majority to which he was appointed two years ago, with a new leader set to be elected when the House begins its third legislative session next month.
Nation’s Future Party leadership implicated
Besides Rashad, the sources said, other Nation’s Future Party leadership figures are expected to be impacted by the shakeup, such as: the party’s deputy head and House Transportation Committee head Alaa Abed; House Human Rights Committee deputy head Tarek Radwan; the party’s organizational secretariat head Yehia al-Issawy; and House Communications Committee deputy head Ahmed Nashaat Mansour.
All the sources said that the coming days would see the removal of non-parliamentary members of the party’s organizational secretariat, a process that has in fact begun at a number of governorate secretariats, including in Alexandria, where many among the top ranks have been replaced by younger party members.
In addition to the instances of financial corruption, the sources noted that the party’s problems have been compounded by the recurring involvement of leadership figures in scandals, such as an incident in which party member and Aswan MP Mostafa Salman assaulted a woman and her husband at a conference in his constituency, resulting in his exclusion from participation in House sessions until the end of its second term.
Rashad ascended to Nation’s Future Party leadership in 2016leadership in 2016, after former head Mohamed Badran resigned suddenly and exited the political scene, saying he wished to complete his studies in the United States. Rashad returned to the position of deputy head months ahead of the 2020 Senate elections, when former Supreme Constitutional Court head and current Senate leader Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek assumed the helm of the party.
The party’s problems have been compounded by the recurring involvement of leadership figures in scandals.
The arrangements being made to remove Rashad, the sources pointed out, have coincided with Badran’s return to Egypt weeks ago and his assuming the role of Misr October Party deputy head as a form of public preamble to his comeback to party politics, they said. This was also evidenced, they added, when the National Training Academy — an organization overseen by the president and tasked with managing his National Dialogue initiative — extended an invitation to him and fellow Misr October Party leaders to present their vision for the dialogue.
A member of the Nation’s Future Party governing body said decision-making circles are yet to reveal Badran’s new role: Whether he is to rejoin the party, compete with it in Misr October or establish a new party to pull the rug from under Nation’s Future in the event that local elections are to take place, or whether he will wait for outcomes of the National Dialogue that could thrust him to the fore.
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