August 23, 2023
On August 19, 2023 at 1:00 am, Egyptian security forces raided the home of Matsadaash journalist Karim Asaad in al-Shorouk, Cairo, and arrested him. During the raid, forces assaulted Asaad and his wife, threatening to harm their two and a half year old son; logged into the Matsadaash platform and deleted two Facebook posts; and seized all phones and computers from the home, in addition to pieces of jewelry and 8,000 EGP. Following the raid, Asaad was taken into custody and forcibly disappeared, during which he was denied access to his attorneys at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. On the evening of August 20 at 10:00 pm, Asaad was released.
This incident took place following heightened targeting of the Matsadaash team around their coverage of a story involving a private plane that had been seized in Zambia, had originated in Egypt, and had 5.7 million USD in cash and 127 kilograms of gold-plated metal bars on board. Since the story broke, Matsadaash put a number of posts fact-checking and verifying the identity of the Egyptian nationals arrested alongside the plane’s seizure; those arrested include gold merchants, defense contractors, and former and current Egyptian security officials. The two posts deleted by Egyptian security officials who gained access to the Matsadaash’s Facebook page during the raid on Asaad’s home detailed the identities of two of the six Egyptians detained in Zambia, one of whom was allegedly a former police officer and the other of whom was allegedly a former military officer. Over the last few months, Matsadaash has been the target of a vicious smear campaign and lawsuits directed at the platform and its staff.
In 2018, Matsadaash was founded by the late Egyptian journalist Mohamed Aboelgheit while he resided abroad in London. The platform is made up of a group of Egyptian journalists committed to combating “the cascade of false or misleading news”; to fact checking statements made by government officials, media professionals, and public figures; and to producing in-depth reporting and open-source investigations. Asaad is one of the platform’s journalists, is a graduate of the Faculty of Mass Communication, and has been practicing as a journalist for the last ten years.
We are grateful that Karim Asaad has since been released and we recognize the efforts of those involved in his timely release. However, we, the undersigned, take this opportunity to call on Egyptian authorities to bring to an end any harassment, prosecution, or targeting of Matsadaash and its team of journalists; to stop its targeting of independent media outlets and fact-checking platforms at large; and to promptly release all journalists who remain in custody.
Independent journalism, open-source investigative work, and fact-checking are critical in any free society and Egyptian authorities’ failure to allow free exercises of expression to thrive without restriction flies in the face of a purported commitment to dialogue and respect for human rights.
Civil Society Organizations and Independent Media Outlets
Access Now, Alternative Press Syndicate - Lebanon, Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Center for International Policy, CIVICUS, Daraj, Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Egyptian Front for Human Rights, Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), EgyptWide for Human Rights, El Nadeem Center against Violence and Torture, Freedom House, Human Rights First, INSM for Digital Rights, International Fact-Checking Network, Intersection Association for Rights and Freedoms, Law and Democracy Support Foundation, MENA Rights Group, PEN America, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Raseef22, Red Line for Gulf, Refugees Platform In Egypt (RPE), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, Samir Kassir Foundation, Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR), SMEX, Start Point, Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), The Freedom Initiative, The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), Virtual Activism, WHRDMENA Coalition, Women for Justice Foundation
Abdelrahman Ayyash - Yale University, Abdelrahman ElGendy - Egyptian Writer, Abdelrahman Fares, Ahmad Abdelfattah - Human Rights Defender, Ahmed Abdelhalim, Ahmed Salem - Executive Director of Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, Ahmed Samih, Aida Seif El Dawla - Cofounder of El Nadim Center (Egypt), Alaa Azzam - Egyptian Journalist, Alia Ibrahim - Daraj, Anwar Al Bunni, Christin El-kholy, Dr. Aymen Zaghdoudi - Media Law Assistant Professor (Tunisia), Badr Elbendary - Freedom of Expression Assistance at Vial Voices, Bahey Eldin Hassan - Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Basma Mostafa - Investigative Journalist, Dr. Courtney C. Radsch - UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy, Elisa Massimino - Human Rights Institute at the Georgetown University Law Center, Elsy Moufarrej - Coordinator of the Alternative Press Syndicate, Emad Mubarak Hassan, Esraa Fehead - Human Rights Defender, Faisal Adel, Hajar Raissouni - Journalist, Halem Henish, Hanan Badr - Professor, Heba Ghannam - American University in DC, Hossam el-Hamalawy - Journalist, Ibrahim Ezzeldin - Urban Researcher and Human Rights Advocate, Ibrahim Heggi - Researcher, Iman Gad - Human Rights Defender, Jonathan Dagher - Head of Middle East Desk at Reporters Without Borders, Kawther Alkholy - Women for Justice Foundation, Magda Adly - Physician, Mahienour El-Massry - Lawyer, Mai El-Sadany - Human Rights Lawyer, Marlyn Tadros - Professor, Marwa Fatafta - Access Now, Miray Philips, Assistant Professor - University of Toronto, Mohamed Lotfy - Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Mohamed Mokhtar - Human Rights Defender, Mohammad El Taher - Researcher and Technologist, Mona Hamed Imam - Psychiatrist, Mostafa Al-a'sar - Egyptian Journalist and Researcher, Nancy Okail - President and CEO of the Center for International Policy (Washington DC), Nour Khalil, Nourhan Fahmy - Egyptian Human Rights Lawyer and Researcher, Nourhanne Charaf Eddine, Obai Kurd Ali - Accountability Manager for The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Omar Taleb - Lebanese Lawyer, Ramy Shaath, Ramy Yaacoub, Ruth Michaelson - Reporter, Samar Elhussieny - Human Rights Defender, Sara Mohamed - Human Rights Researcher and Advocate, Sayed Nasr - Human Rights Defender, Shimaa Samy - Journalist and Researcher, Shorouk Amgad - Human Rights Defender, Sofian Philip Naceur - Journalist, Solafa Magdy - Journalist, Suzan Fayyad - Psychiatrist at El Nadim Center