Egypt arrests news editor amid media crackdown

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities have arrested the editor of an independent news website for operating without a license, the latest episode in a widening crackdown on independent media, officials said Wednesday.

They said Adel Sabri was arrested late Tuesday and taken to a Cairo police station, while the offices of the Masr al-Arabia website were shuttered. Prosecutors were questioning Sabri on Wednesday, they said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The arrest came a day after President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi won a second, four-year term in office, with 97 percent of the vote in last week's election. He faced no serious competition, after a string of potentially strong candidates were arrested or withdrew under pressure, leaving a single opponent who made no effort to challenge him.

The officials said the Masr al-Arabia site was fined 50,000 pounds (nearly $3,000) by the media regulatory body earlier this week for publishing an Arabic translation of a New York Times report, which said that voters were offered cash, food and promises of better services in exchange for their participation.

The Egyptian newspaper El-Masri El-Youm was fined 150,000 pounds ($8,500) over its own, similar report. The newspaper published an apology on Tuesday.

Authorities went to great lengths to boost turnout, hoping to lend the election legitimacy. Official turnout ended up being around 40 percent.

El-Sissi, who overthrew Egypt's first freely elected president in 2013 amid mass protests against his rule, has since waged the heaviest crackdown on dissent in Egypt's modern history. Authorities have outlawed unauthorized protests, jailed thousands of Islamists as well as several prominent secular activists, and blocked hundreds of independent websites.

In February, authorities expelled a British journalist for The Times of London, saying she did not have valid accreditation and was filming without a permit. Last month, a pro-government talk show host was briefly detained for a segment of his show that the Interior Ministry saw as insulting to the police.

Last month, Egypt's chief prosecutor said segments of the media have been trying to "undermine the security and safety of the nation," and later published a list of telephone numbers for citizens to alert authorities to reports they view as undermining security or spreading false news.

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