CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's prosecutors have charged four journalists from one of the country's few remaining independent news outlets of spreading false news and disturbing public peace, the news website said in a statement.
Mada Masr said late Wednesday that the journalists were released on bail following their interrogation. At issue is an article saying that senior members of a pro-government political party were implicated in a corruption case.
Mada Masr Editor-in-Chief Lina Attalah and the three female authors of the article — Rana Mamdouh, Sara Seif Eddin and Beesan Kassab — also were charged with slander and defamation of Nation’s Future Party members, according to the outlet's statement.
After Wednesday’s interrogation, Attalah was charged with running an unlicensed news website. The outlet has said in previous statements that it has applied for a license but did not receive a response.
Bail for Atallah was set at LE20,000 ($1,052) and at LE5,000 ($263) for the three other journalists, according to Mada Masr statement.
An Egyptian government media officer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new charges filed against the journalists.
Media are required to have permission to work in Egypt, but that requirement is often used as a pretext to silence reporting the state sees as critical.
Mada Masr is one of hundreds of websites blocked by the Egyptian government in recent years, but it has continued to publish independent investigative pieces through other sites. Such stories are not produced by other Egyptian media. Nearly all newspapers and television channels are closely aligned with the government or the military.
Egyptian authorities have previously targeted Mada Masr journalists. In 2020, Attalah was arrested outside Cairo’s Tora prison complex while interviewing the mother of prominent jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. She was released later.
In 2019, security forces raided the news site's office, seized laptops and phones and detained three staff members, including the editor. All three were later released.
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 2021 data gathered by the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists.