Egypt’s security forces raided the office of independent news website Mada Masr on Sunday and briefly detained three of its staff including its top editor, reported Reuters.
The raid follows a crackdown on dissent and free speech under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The news outlet has recently published an article on the apparent sidelining of Egyptian President Sisi’s oldest son.
Despite being blocked in Egypt since 2017, Mada Masr is accessible in the country via virtual private networks.
“Today at 1:30 pm nine plainclothes security forces entered the Mada Masr office by force,” the outlet confirmed on Twitter. “They immediately began confiscating everybody’s laptops and phones. When asked who they were, they aggressively refused to answer.”
According to Mada Masr, its staff members were questioned for around three hours and then its editor in chief Lina Attallah and managing editor Mohamed Hamama, were later taken to a police station along with reporter Rana Mamdouh. They were released a few hours later.
The raid comes after Mada Masr’s news editor, Shady Zalat, 37, was arrested was taken by Egyptian security forces from his home in Cairo early on Saturday. Zalat was released from detention on a road on the outskirts of Cairo an hour after the raid ended.
The outlet also said lawyer Mahmoud Osman was prevented by security forces from entering the office.
According to the New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Egypt jails more journalists than any other country after China and Turkey. Ever since the anti-government protests erupted in September, the security forces have detained at least eight journalists.
The CPJ issued a statement condemning the raid and arrests, calling on Egyptian authorities to end their retaliation campaign against Mada Masr.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders deemed Egypt as one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.