Mada Foundation for Media Development | Imprisoned in Egypt | October 21, 2015

Job:Internet Reporter, Print reporter, Publisher/Owner
Medium:Internet, Print
Beats Covered:Corruption, Human Rights, Politics
Local or Foreign:Local
Length of Sentence:Not Sentenced
Reported Health Problems:Yes

National security agents raided the offices of the Mada Foundation for Media Development in the Cairo suburb of 6th of October, and arrested its director, Hisham Jaafar, on October 21, 2015. Staff members at the foundation, who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, said the agents were masked and armed. The agents detained staff members at the offices for several hours. Human rights lawyers, among them lawyers for the regional rights group the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, were not permitted to enter the offices, according to news reports.

Security forces permitted all staff to leave that evening, but closed the foundation's office, which remained closed in late 2017, staff members said.

After Jaafar's arrest, several agents raided his home, which is within walking distance of the foundation's office, according to accounts from his wife and son on social media and in news reports.

Security agents took Jaafar to an unknown location after his arrest, according to news reports. Three days later, his lawyers were told he was being held in Cairo's Tora prison and had been questioned by national security prosecutors, Khaled el-Balshy, a member of the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, told CPJ.

The journalist was charged with belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and receiving bribes from foreign sources, according to his colleagues. His pretrial detention is renewed for periods of 45 days.

Jaafar is the former editor-in-chief of the popular website IslamOnline, which covered news and religious and social issues. He founded the Mada Foundation for Media Development in 2010 along with other several former IslamOnline staff members. The foundation provided training and support for local journalists and served as a hub for research projects on social issues, such as women's rights and religious dialogue. It also launched the website OnIslam, which covers news as well as features on lifestyle, health, and Islamic spirituality.

Several of the foundation's employees received threats from security forces and some have left the country for fear of arrest, according to employees with whom CPJ spoke.

The Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, along with several prominent Egyptian journalists and academics, have called for Jaafar's release, describing him as an independent journalist and researcher with no political affiliations. Former colleagues at IslamOnline and staff at the Mada Foundation told CPJ he had been working on investigative reports about parliamentary reform and a research project on national dialogue before his arrest.

In May 2017, a Cairo criminal court listed Jaafar on the country's terrorism list, according to news reports. Under Egypt's counterterrorism law, approved by President el-Sisi in August 2015, individuals listed on the "terrorism list" are banned, for five years, from travelling, renewing passports, and working in the public sector. They are also subject to an asset freeze.

Jaafar's wife, Manar al-Tantawie, told CPJ that the journalist has an enlarged prostate and damage to a nerve in one eye. He is being held at Scorpion Prison in Cairo's Tora prison complex, where he is offered minimal health care, she said. Individuals in pretrial detention are not supposed to be held in maximum security prisons, according to the journalist's lawyer.

The lawyer's repeated requests for him to be released on medical grounds were all denied. After the president declared a state of emergency on April 9, 2017, no visitors were allowed in Scorpion Prison until late September, according to al-Tantawie and news reports.

On September 12, 2017, prison guards attacked Jaafar and beat him, according to a message Jaafar sent to his wife via an inmate who was in court for a hearing. His wife did not provide further details. No trial date had been set by late 2017, according to the family.

As of December 1, 2017, Egypt's Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, did not respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment about claims of jailed journalists being mistreated.

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