In truth, the government conducted the raid to discredit Mada Masr after it published an unflattering article about Sisi’s son, Mahmoud. In this case, the detained journalists were released, but many have not been so lucky.
Bin Salman: no mercy for dissenters
Indeed, only China and Turkey lock up more journalists than Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where the number of jailed journalists and dissidents has risen steadily since 2011. Since coming to power in 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has overseen a ruthless campaign against dissenters, epitomised by the 2018 murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the United States, at the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
MbS has not stopped at journalists; anyone perceived as a political opponent is fair game. Last November, police arrested eight writers and entrepreneurs, most of whom were not active dissidents. Two of them, the writers Abdulmajeed al-Buluwi and Badr al-Rashed, had even publicly supported MbS’s economic-reform agenda in an effort to atone for past criticism.
As in Egypt, the Saudi authorities have claimed that those arrested were working to destabilise the government on behalf of a foreign power. This was the gist of social media campaigns run by MbS’s media adviser, Saud al Qatani, to discredit journalists and dissidents.