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Police raid Masr al-Arabia office, detain editor in chief in connection to election coverage fine

Police raided the office of the privately owned Masr al-Arabia website on Tuesday evening, detaining and transporting Editor in Chief Adel Sabry to Dokki Police Station, according to Mohamed Mounir, a journalist with the publication.

While the raid was conducted under the pretext of examining software licenses, Mounir told Mada Masr that one of the officers stated the action was connected to the implementation of a LE50,000 fine issued by the Supreme Media Regulatory Council on Sunday.

Following the raid, Masr al-Arabia journalists contacted Makram Mohamed Ahmed, the head of the Supreme Media Regulatory Council, who told them they must pay the fine.

The fine was issued following a complaint submitted by the chairman of the National Elections committee regarding the outlet’s coverage of the presidential election. Masr al-Arabia published an overview of a New York Times’ piece titled “For as Little as $3 a Vote, Egyptians Trudge to Election Stations” on March 27. The council accused the publication of copying the foreign newspapers’ coverage without verifying the facts.

Masr al-Arabia is among the approximately 500 websites to which access is currently blocked on Egyptian ISPs.

Police remained at the website’s office in the Cairo district of Dokki for an hour after the raid concluded, Journalists Syndicate member Amr Badr told Mada Masr. After they received a phone call, the police forcibly removed the journalists and Sabry from the premises.

The Supreme Media Regulatory Council also fined the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper LE150,000 on Sunday for a front-page headline, published on March 27, that read: “State mobilized voters on last day of election.” The NEA filed an official complaint on Saturday regarding the piece, which reported on public employees offering incentives to citizens in hopes of pushing them to the polls to vote for current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s second term.

Al-Masry Al-Youm retracted its headline the same day it was published, replacing it in the second print and online with one that reads: “Initial polling indicators show Sisi crushing Moussa.” The newspaper has since apologized for what it called misleading wording, asserting that the headline was meant to have a positive connotation.

The public prosecutor also referred on Sunday a complaint filed by pro-state lawyer Samir Sabry regarding Al-Masry Al-Youm’s election coverage to the State Security Prosecution, which will decide whether to open investigations.

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