Solafa Magdy, an Egyptian freelance reporter, is detained in Cairo alongside her husband, Hossam el-Sayyad, and their friend Mohamed Salah, both also journalists.
Magdy produces multimedia reports for news outlets including the Emarati news website Al-Roya, the Turkish news agency TRT, the German news agency Deutsche Welle, the BBC, and the independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr, according to her personal website. In 2017, she founded the “Everyday Footage” project with el-Sayyad to teach mobile journalism, according to local rights group Nazra for Feminist Studies. She was one of the 2019 U.N. Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellows selected to cover the U.N. General Assembly. Magdy reports on issues including human rights, women’s rights, and illegal immigration, according to her September 2019 interview with the local independent news website the Glocal.
Their arrests came amid a crackdown between September and November 2019, during which several journalists, including the Egyptian journalist Esraa Abdefattah, were arrested and authorities raided the Cairo offices of the independent news outlet Mada Masr. Salah was in a car with Abdelfattah, on their way to meet Magdy at the time of her October 2019 arrest, Magdy told CPJ at the time. Prior to her arrest, Magdy posted on Twitter and Facebook about these incidents.
On November 26, 2019, plainclothes security officers arrested Magdy, el-Sayyad, and Salah as they left a coffee shop in the Dokki neighborhood of the greater Cairo area, Magdy’s lawyer, Nabih el-Ganadi, told CPJ.
The officers took the journalists to a police station in Dokki, where they confiscated their mobile phones and Magdy’s car keys, according to el-Ganadi. When Magdy refused to unlock her phone, an officer cursed and beat her until she did so, el-Ganadi told CPJ. The officers blindfolded the journalists and took them to a location that one of the officers said belonged to the state security agency, the lawyer said.
The lawyer said that authorities questioned the group about their journalistic work and the news outlets they work for.
The lawyer said the case file for Magdy and el-Sayyad did not mention the confiscated mobile phone or car keys in her case file.
On November 27, 2019, all three journalists appeared in front of a state security prosecutor who charged Magdy and Salah with membership of a banned group and disseminating false news, and el-Sayyad with membership of a banned group, el-Ganadi told CPJ. The prosecutor ordered them to be detained for 15 days pending investigation, according to el-Ganadi.
Prosecutors have repeatedly renewed Magdy’s detention by 15 day periods including on August 30, 2020, according to news reports. On the same day, prosecutors filed additional charges of membership in a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, based on acts she had allegedly committed while in custody, according to the reports.
On March 10, 2020, the Ministry of Interior banned visitors, including family members and lawyers, from entering prisons as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19; as of August 22, visitors have been allowed on a limited basis, according to news reports.
On August 31, Magdy’s mother, Taghred Zahran, visited her daughter for the first time in prison since the ban was imposed, according to a statement she posted on her personal Facebook page.
Magdy is held in Al-Qanatir prison in Cairo; since her detention she has developed severe asthma and low blood pressure, according to an Egyptian lawyer who is familiar with the case and spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. CPJ was unable to determine whether Magdy is receiving treatment for the conditions in prison.
The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, the prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office, did not answer CPJ’s emails requesting comment on Magdy in September 2020.