Lina Attalah was interviewing Laila Soueif, mother of imprisoned activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, when security officials arrested her, confiscating her phone and denying her legal counsel.
According to media reports, she was released hours later following a bail payment of EGP 2000 (115€). The reasons for the arrest remain undisclosed.
Attalah is an award-winning journalist who has been working as a reporter for more than 15 years and now is the editor-in-chief of Mada Masr media, an online outlet that investigates corruption and security. Its website has been unavailable since 2017 when the Egyptian government shutdown over 500 sites but is still publishing content using VPN and mirror sites to avoid the blockade.
A state-led campaign against journalists
The arrest of Lina Atallah occurs in the context of a state-led campaign against journalists named "case number 586".
Case number 586 is a campaign to arrest journalists in Egypt on charges of participating in terrorist groups and spreading "fake news". Among the journalists in custody due to this campaign are Sameh Hanin, Haitham Hassan Mahjoub and producer Moataz Abdel Wahab. Media reported that their arrests were related to their coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to legal experts, their arrests are a new case of fabricated charges by the Egyptian security and judicial services to target journalists and human rights activists.
Egyptian authorities have a damning record of abusing journalists and muzzling press freedom. In recent months, the IFJ condemned the arrest of journalists Hossam El-Sayed and Solafa Magdy, who were accused of terrorist activities. This followed a string of arrests targeting journalists and activists, in October 2019. The IFJ has repeatedly called on the authorities to stop the repression of media.