Update from Mada Masr regarding the arrest of colleague Shady Zalat

The whereabouts of Mada Masr editor Shady Zalat remain unknown 18 hours after he was detained in the early morning of November 23. 

While security forces told Shady’s wife that he had been being taken to the Giza Security Directorate, Hassan al-Azhari, Mada Masr’s lawyer, was told that Shady was not at the directorate when he visited the premises this morning. We now consider Shady disappeared. 

“Shady’s detention is not legal,” Azhari says. “He hasn’t yet been referred to an investigative authority yet, a delay that is a common practice used by authorities in Egypt in targeting journalists and others.”

In addition to our deep concern for our colleague’s personal safety and well being, we view his arrest as an existential threat to Mada Masr. It comes in the wake of the largest arrest campaign since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi formally came to power in 2014, with over 4,000 people detained since anti-government protests broke on September 20, according to rights groups. Activists, university professors, lawyers, journalists and political opposition figures have all been detained in recent weeks. 

“We are often asked how we’re still able to work through the years of crackdown and pressure that have forced most media into closure or clear alignment with those in power,” Mada Masr Editor in Chief Lina Attalah says. “Journalists have no protection other than the integrity of their work and the value that others place in it. We are all in danger, and if we do not stand up, we will all be their prisoners. As Shady’s colleagues, our only option now is to fight for his safety and for our ability to continue to do our jobs.”

Last year, Mada Masr submitted an application to bring our status under the new law regulating the press and media. We did this under no illusion about what our journalistic role is and how Egyptian authorities perceive us. Yet, nearly a year to the day since we submitted our application, we have yet to receive a response.

Now, our staff and reporters are at risk, as the government appears to be transgressing previously set boundaries.

Shady was arrested in the early hours of this morning, after security forces knocked loudly on the door of his home in Cairo, where he lives with his wife and daughter. They announced that they were looking for Shady and did not identify themselves or present an arrest warrant. Four plainclothes security officers entered the apartment, while a number of uniformed, armed security forces waited outside.

The officers detained Shady, confiscating his laptop, as well as his wife’s, and taking a number of documents related to his work. Several minutes after they detained Shady, the security forces, seemingly agitated, returned to the apartment, looking for his cell phone. After they retrieved it, they left and told Shady’s wife that he was being taken to the Giza security directorate. When our lawyer went there this morning to inquire about him he was told Shady was not there.

Earlier this month, security forces approached Shady’s building three separate times in a single night and questioned the bawab about Shady’s apartment, his car and his work.

Shady is 37 years old and has been working at Mada Masr as an editor since 2014. He has done nothing more than use words to report the news. 

We hold Egyptian authorities responsible for his safety and well being and call for his immediate and unconditional release. 

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