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Egyptian Government Raids Independent News Outlet


It's dangerous to try to tell the truth in Egypt. Yesterday, government authorities raided the offices of one of the country's only independent news outlets. As NPR's Jane Arraf reports, it's part of a crackdown in Egypt that has shut down websites and put thousands of activists in jail.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Mada Masr is an online newspaper doing investigative journalism in an increasingly authoritarian Egypt. Its latest scoop reported that President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi's eldest son was sidelined from his job as a senior intelligence official and reassigned to Egypt's embassy in Russia. It said Mahmoud el-Sisi was thought to have not handled his job well. Last week, a Mada Masr editor was seized from his home before dawn without an arrest warrant and taken into custody. And Sunday, plainclothes security raided the newspaper's offices. Sharif Abdel Kouddous, a Mada Masr journalist who was there, tells us what happened.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: A group of plainclothes security personnel, about nine of them, entered the office by force. They moved quickly and aggressively throughout the office. The first thing they did - they immediately began confiscating everyone's phones and laptops. When we asked them to identify themselves or who they were, they refused to answer and became agitated.

ARRAF: Three hours later, the chief editor and two other staff members were taken into custody. They were released a few hours later. The editor taken from his home last week was also freed, dropped off by the side of a highway. Egyptian security officials could not be reached for comment. Under Sisi's rule, thousands of activists and journalists have been jailed and hundreds of Internet news sites shut down. The media freedom group Reporters Without Borders calls Egypt one of the biggest jailers of journalists in the world. Abdel Kouddous, who's Egyptian American, says Mada Masr is continuing to cover the news.

ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We are open about our work. And we think our work is critical. Mada Masr's really kind of a last bastion of free expression and of critical journalism. And so we think it's important to continue our work.

ARRAF: Egypt isn't the only country cracking down on journalists. Iraq over the weekend ordered the Bureau of the U.S. government-funded Radio Sawa closed. It also renewed its shutdown of the U.S. government's Alhurra television channel. The Iraqi communications authority banned at least seven other television channels for their coverage of anti-government protests that have swept the country. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.
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