Before we found out that our colleague Lina Atallah was detained in Cairo while conducting a press interview with Leila Sueif, the mother of the detainee Alaa Abdel-Fattah, we had received a photograph of the mother as she slept on the floor next to the prison, waiting for permission to visit her son who was on hunger strike for about a month, as an objection to his repeated arbitrary imprisonment. When we saw the photo, we had expected that Lina Atallah, as she always does, will find a way to reach this sad site and scene. It is the scene that Lina and her colleagues in Mada Masr have drawn for us. Indeed, Lina did not disappoint us, just as the Egyptian security’s reaction was equally predictable. Lina was taken back to prison. The assiduous journalist, who was determined to accomplish the task assigned to her, the same way the Egyptian authorities were determined to restrict the work of the press and repress freedoms.
It was difficult for Lina Atallah not to reach out to Leila Sueif. We had all thought about this, and we all expected that the authorities would not stand still the moment Lina met Sueif. The question here extends to the entire Egyptian media, that overlooked this scene of the sleeping mother waiting to meet her son after a month of hunger strike, the same way they ignored dozens of detainees, some of whom died in prison, while others await the same miserable fate.
It is more likely that the media will also ignore the news of Lina’s arrest, just as they contributed a few weeks ago to propagating false news about her infection with Coronavirus “as a result of contact with foreigners”!
The fact is that the steadfast colleagues at Mada Masr and similar Egyptian websites, whether they are run by individuals or groups, provide us every day with positive energy, that makes us feel like confronting the corrupt authorities in our countries is not only possible, but the only way for us to get over the major disappointments in our deteriorated region.
Their persistence should be considered a role model for alternative journalism, not only in the face of illegitimate governments, but also in the face of illegitimate media organizations and illegitimate powers, and most critically now in the face of the horrific collapse caused by these authorities, and pushed by the pandemic to unprecedented levels.
We will not say that we are used to seeing Lina Atallah in prison. We will wait for her release, admire her and Mada Masr, who chose to side with Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s mother, at a time when others chose to side with her son’s jailers.
All our love to Lina and to Mada Masr.