Adel Sabri… From an editor-in-chief of a censored website to a prisoner facing terrorism charges: The Authorities vs. Journalism (A Profile)

 On April 3rd night, the works of art investigation authority raided the headquarters of “Masr AlArabia” website, arrested its editor-in-chief and referred him to the prosecution that charged him with many charges including spreading false news and joining a terrorist group.

Adel Sabri, 56 years old, is a journalist and editor-in-chief of Masr AlArabia website, he is also the former editor-in-chief of Alwafd portal, and one of Alwafd party members.

Sabri’s arrest was the first indication for the new era of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, where security forced raided the headquarters of Masr AlArabia website in Dokki, Giza, on Tuesday April 3rd. Security forces who claimed they were from the authority of works of art investigation arrested the editor-in-chief and took him to Dokki police station, claiming there had been no license from the district.

Officers in plain clothes claiming they were from the authority of works of art, without showing their IDs or their work identification, raided the place on April 3rd and asked the editors to surrender their computers and leave them switched on, but after objections from the journalists, the officers agreed to allow them log off their accounts and personal emails.

After a long time and deliberation with the editor-in-chief Adel Sabri, and after a lot of talking, while the editors are prevented from performing their journalistic work, the security force stated that they had come to collect a fine of EGP 50,000 decided by the Head of the Higher Council of Journalism and Media, Makram Mohammad Ahmad, because Masr AlArabia website had translated a news report from The New York Times.

Although the authority of investigation of works of art is not an executive authority under the National Council of Journalism, the officers kept preventing the editors from working on their computers, and uploading content on the website stopped except for some international agencies updates.

When Adel Sabri, as editor-in-chief called Makram Mohammad Ahmad as the head of the Higher Council of Journalism and Media, the later stressed on the procedure being collecting the fine only and that it was not final and the website could appeal.

At about 8:30 PM, the force in the place decided to detain Adel Sabri with a new reason which is the lack of license from the designated district.

After the incident, the ministry of interior issued a statement to comment on the incident, without mentioning the charge of working without license from the designated district, and mentioned:

The general administration of the works of art and protecting copyrights is able to arrest the editor in chief of Masr Alarabia website, for operating without a license in contradiction to the law”

Also:

The information and investigation by the general administration of the works of art and protecting copyrights, in coordination with national security, confirmed that A.S., 56 years old, editor in chief of masralarabia website, and a resident in Omrania Giza, operated and managed a website under the name (MasrAlArabia electronic website) without license in contradiction to the law.

And added:

After legalizing the procedures, the mentioned website within Dokki police station jurisdiction, was targeted, where him who was mentioned before was arrested for operating and managing the website in contradiction to the law of organizing communication and uploading content on the internet without license through a certain company, and in contradiction to the law of licenses to the shops and commercial buildings, in reference to the headquarters where the operation without license had occurred”

At the end:

The place is now sealed under the general prosecution, with (38 computers used for operating the website) in it. The proper legal steps were made and presentation to the prosecution for interrogation occurred.”

After the administration of Masr AlArabia website had presented to the prosecution all documents proving its legal status and licenses issued from ministry of investment in accordance with the Egyptian law, and in turn devaluing all charges mentioned before about operating without license, the prosecution accused the editor-in-chief of charges other than those he was arrested for which are: “joining a terrorist group aiming for calling for opposing the ruling regime in Egypt, promoting by use of writing and drawings doctrines aimed at changing the principles of the Constitution and fundamental regulations through Masr AlArabia website, intentionally publishing false news and statements through the electronic news portal under his management, and incitement to demonstrate in order to disrupt public order and security”

The committee of complaints in the Higher Council of Media decided last Sunday to issue a fine on Masr AlArabia website of EGP 50,000 because of the translation of a report issued on March 29th 2018 and publishing it under the title “For as Little as $3 a Vote, Egyptians Trudge to Election Stations” which was allegedly against the professional rules.

It is worth mentioning that Masr AlArabia is among the list of blocked websites for long months and that journalists and employees at Masr AlArabia who are about 70, presented a memorandum to the syndicate of journalists, demanding the interference for the competent authorities to regain the website operation to its normal state, based on the impact of its closure.