Solafa Magdy, a freelance reporter, has been detained in Cairo alongside her husband, Hossam el-Sayyad, and their friend Mohamed Salah, both also journalists, since late November 2019 on charges of membership of a banned group and spreading false news.
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, 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 journalists 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, 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.
All three were due to appear in court on December 8, el-Ganadi told CPJ.
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.