Watchdog condemns arrest of Egyptian editor, later released

CAIRO (AP) — A leading media watchdog group condemned the arrest of an editor-in-chief of one of Egypt's last independent news platforms, who was eventually released late Thursday after an extensive interrogation, her outlet said.

Nora Younis, editor of the al-Manassa news website, was arrested Wednesday pending investigation into charges of managing a news website without an operating license after security forces raided her office in Cairo, al-Manassa said of the government’s latest attempt to clamp down on news media.

After spending the night in police custody, Younis on Thursday appeared before prosecutors, who fined her 10,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $625) and ordered her release from a police station in southern Cairo’s Maadi district, the outlet reported. Late Thursday, several hours after the release order, security forces let her go home.

“By means of constant administrative stalling, the authorities prevented Al-Manassa from legalizing its situation, so that the lack of an official permit to operate became a pretext for judicial proceedings,” the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said.

The group urged Egyptian authorities to “stop persecuting independent media.” In recent months security forces have also targeted the senior editors of another independent outlet, Mada Masr, for arrest and harassment. Most of Egypt’s other news agencies are either state-owned or have been acquired by companies affiliated with the country’s intelligence service.

Media outlets are required to have permission to work in Egypt, but withholding accreditation is often used as a pretext to silence reporting that the state sees as critical. Al-Manassa has said in previous statements that it applied for a license in October 2018 but has not received a response.

Younis is a rights activist, journalist and blogger. She formerly worked as a managing editor at Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s most popular daily newspaper.

Younis founded Al-Manassa in 2015, but authorities blocked the website in 2017, one of hundreds of sites banned or blocked in recent years. The outlet, however, continued to publish through mirror sites.

Egypt’s government, under general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, has overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands.

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 Committee to Protect Journalists.

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