CAIRO – Egyptian authorities detained a local journalist after she traveled to the southern city of Luxor to cover the alleged killing of a man during a police raid last week, her employer and family said Sunday.
Basma Mostafa arrived in Luxor on Saturday morning, according to the al-Manassa news website where she works, but her employer subsequently lost contact with her. Al-Manassa said in a report that Mostafa believed she was being monitored by police while in the city.
Rights lawyer Karim Abdel-Rady, who is also her husband, said his wife, a 30-year-old mother of two, appeared Sunday at the headquarters of Egypt's state security prosecution in the capital, Cairo. Another lawyer, Khaled Ali, confirmed that she was brought before prosecutors.
Later Sunday, al-Manassa reported that prosecutors had interrogated Mostafa and ordered her to remain in custody for 15 days. It said her lawyers did not know what charges she faced because they were not allowed to attend the questioning.
Rights lawyer Hala Doma, however, said she and Abdel-Rady attended the questioning and that Mostafa faces accusations of disseminating false news and joining a terrorist group, an apparent reference to the Muslim Brotherhood group which the government banned since 2013.
A government media officer did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Egypt has in the past arrested journalists who it says are operating without proper permissions. The outlet Mostafa works for is banned from operating in Egypt and its website is blocked.
Media outlets are required to have licenses to work in Egypt, but withholding accreditation is often used as a pretext to silence reporting that the state sees as critical. Some journalists have also been sentenced on charges of "spreading false news," a punishable crime.
Mostafa had recently reported on the death of a young man while in police detention in Cairo in September. She was in Luxor to cover unrest in the village of el-Awamiya following the death of a man allegedly at the hands of police last week, according to Amnesty International.
Her detention is the latest in a widening government crackdown on dissent and media. Egypt’s government, under general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, has overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands.
In recent years, Egypt has imprisoned dozens of reporters and occasionally expelled some foreign journalists. It remains among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
In June, authorities raided al-Manassa's offices in Cairo and briefly arrested its editor, Nora Younis, who was released pending investigation into charges of managing a news website without an operating license.
Mahmoud Kamel, a board member of Egypt’s Journalists' Union, said authorities have arrested five journalists since the beginning of September.