Egypt urged to respect media freedom


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Egypt to respect freedom of the press days after Egyptian security forces raided the office of independent news website Mada Masr and briefly detained three staffers.

“As part of our longstanding strategic partnership with Egypt, we continue to raise the fundamental importance of respect for human rights, universal freedoms and the need for a robust civil society,” Pompeo said in a news conference.

Rights activists say Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi oversaw an unprecedented crackdown on freedoms in Egypt since he took power in 2014. Sisi and his backers say the measures are needed to keep Egypt stable and counter threats from Islamist militants.

Mada Masr is one of Egypt’s last independent news outlets publishing critical stories after years of tighter controls on media and arrests of journalists and bloggers. Its website, which carries stories in Arabic and English, is blocked in Egypt.

On Sunday, Mada Masr said Egyptian security forces raided its offices and detained three of its staff, including its top editor, and confiscated laptops and phones. All three were later released from a local police station, it said.

Last month, the UN human rights office called on Egypt to free a prominent blogger, a lawyer and a journalist, all apparently mistreated in custody.

They are among several thousand who activists say were detained following protests against Sisi in Cairo and elsewhere in September.