Adel Sabri, a local staff editor at Masr al-Arabia, has been detained since April 2018. A court ordered his release in September 2018 but the following day, a prosecutor issued a new warrant for Sabri as part of a mass trial.
Police arrested Sabri on April 4, 2018, during a raid on the Giza office of Masr al-Arabia, during which police detained several of the outlet’s journalists for about five hours, according to Masr al-Arabia, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information local press freedom group, and news reports. Police later ordered staff to leave the building before sealing the doors with red wax, according to Masr al-Arabia, according to the same sources.
A prosecutor charged Sabri with spreading false news and operating a website without a license, according to reports. For the first five months of his detention, authorities repeatedly renewed the journalist’s 15-day pretrial detention period, his outlet reported.
Before the raid and arrest, Egypt’s media regulator, the High Council for Media, had ordered the outlet to pay a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$2,841) for allegedly violating election regulations, according to news reports.
The regulator issued the fine on April 1, 2018 after Masr al-Arabia published an Arabic translation of a critical New York Times report alleging election violations. The regulator accused the site of using a foreign paper’s reporting without verifying the facts, according to reports. The website refused to pay the fine, according to the Masr al-Arabia statement.
Egyptian authorities blocked the Masr al-Arabia website in May 2017, the government’ s official Middle East News Agency reported at the time. As of late 2019, the site was still blocked in Egypt, but accessible through virtual private networks (VPNs). The website’s staff work remotely, according to a statement from Masr al-Arabia issued after the raid.
A Giza criminal court on July 9, 2018 ordered Sabri to be released on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$560), his employer, citing his lawyer, reported. However, the following day a prosecutor issued a new warrant for Sabri on charges of spreading false news and "membership of a banned group," as part of a mass trial known as 441, according to his outlets and ANHRI.
At hearings in 2019, the Cairo criminal court repeatedly extended Sabri’s pretrial detention, including on August 27, 2019, according to the local press freedom group Egyptian Observatory for Journalism and Media. On July 20, the court renewed Sabri’s pretrial detention period without him or his lawyer being present, according to Egyptian Observatory for Journalism and Media, and the local rights group Regional Center for Rights and Liberties.
As of late 2019, the Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office had not answered CPJ’s emails requesting comment.