Female Journalists fight to save narrowing media space

Maha Salaheldin
Written by: 
Miriam Najjingo

Female journalists continue to fight for better spaces within which to practice journalism in Egypt.

A lot has been written about the state of media freedom in Egypt with some reports branding the country as a top jailer for journalists and others saying it operates a highly restrictive environment for the media in general.

One of the journalists harassed, arrested but later released after spending two years under confinement is Solafa Magdy. Together with her husband Hossam Saiad she was arrested in November 2019 for joining an illegal organisation, misuse of social media and spreading false news. After more than a year under arrest the duo was set free on 13 April 2021.

Ahead of the World Press Freedom Day, commemorated every year on 3 May, we sought to find out what it is like for a female journalist to report from Egypt.

In an interview, Maha Salaheldin, an investigative and data journalist, elaborated the treatment of female journalists during their daily rounds at work.

“Female journalists in Egypt suffer more on the societal level, like women in Egypt in general. The matter goes beyond politics, wage discrimination in positions, harassment among others,” Maha explained.

She noted that safe environments for female journalists are very few, adding: “But if there is a need for a female journalist to be arrested, there will be a lot of attention from the international community and civil society organizations.”

Maha says it’s better for female journalists to err on the side of caution and the keyword is “safe journalism”. “We work at the minimum allowable, we exploit our capabilities in social and sports stories, we use explanatory stories, and data journalism, things that have no interpretation, in order to produce good, safe journalism,” she added.

Asked whether media houses in Egypt provide legal safeguards for journalists who face prosecution, Maha clarified that it’s the female journalists who are trying to fight for their rights. “In other words, they are the ones who file lawsuits, demand higher wages, and sometimes resign. Each case has its own experience, and often the matter is individual,” Maha explained.

To escape oppression, some Egyptian journalists have resorted to activism basing abroad as the space at home gets narrower by the day.

­­In March 2023, three female journalists, Rama Mamdosh, Sara Seif Eddin and Beesan Kassab working for an independent news website Mada Masr were sent to jail for offending members of parliament. Abeer Saady, a media safety trainer and an Egyptian journalist based in Germany, says that freedom of expression is the biggest challenge faced by not only journalists in Egypt but citizens in general.


Allan Atulinda, a BBC journalist based in Kampala, says that he has been to Cairo and there are limitations and sensitivity to filming certain areas in Egypt as compared to other African countries like Uganda.


This year’s theme for the World Press Freedom Day is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights”. The theme signifies the enabling element of freedom of expression to enjoy and protect all other human rights.