Egypt military frees prominent activist reporter Bahgat

Egypt military frees prominent activist reporter Bahgat
Hossam Bahgat, a prominent investigative journalist and human rights advocate who was facing prosecution for 'publishing false information' has been freed from detention, as Sisi's regime continues its crackdown.
3 min read
10 November, 2015
Hossam Bahgat is one of Egypt’s most prominent activists [AFP]

Egyptian military prosecutors have freed investigative journalist and rights activist Hossam Bahgat on Tuesday, after he was detained the day before on suspicion of publishing false information.

His detention had sparked calls for his release from the United Nations.

"He called me and said he's been released from the military intelligence building," said Gasser Abdel-Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights group that Bahgat founded.

Mada Masr, the news site for which he works for, said Bahgat, 37, was ordered detained for four days for questioning on suspicion of "spreading false news aimed at harming national interests."

London based human rights group, Amnesty International said: "Military intelligence sent a summons to Hossam Bahgat at his home in Alexandria last Thursday to report for questioning." 

"He went to the military intelligence premises in Nasr City, Cairo, at 9am [Sunday] and remained there since. He was allowed to make a three-second phone call to his colleagues informing them that he is being formally charged by the military prosecutor and needs a lawyer," the organisation added.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] said: "The Egyptian military has already indicated its contempt for the role of an independent media with a series of arrests of journalists."

"This latest detention is a clear attempt to stifle reporting," the CPJ statement added, quoting its Middle East coordinator Sherif Mansour.

'Nail in the coffin for freedom of expression'

     The Egyptian military cannot continue to consider itself above the law and immune from criticism
- Amnesty International

One of Egypt’s most prominent activists, Hossam Bahgat is the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights [EIPR], an independent Egyptian human rights organisation.

He was honoured with a Human Rights Watch Alison Des Forges Award in 2011.

Last year Bahgat left EIPR and joined Mada Masr, an online news site, where he has written a series of articles concerning the army and military trials.

Last month he wrote an article about the military trial of 26 military officers who were accused and convicted of planning a coup.

The article was based on official documents, including the military prosecutor’s indictment, and on interviews with the military officers’ families.

"The arrest of Hossam Bahgat today is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression in Egypt," said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International in a statement.

"The Egyptian military cannot continue to consider itself above the law and immune from criticism."

Egypt's state-run news agency reported on Sunday that authorities detained newspaper owner Salah Diab and his son on orders from the public funds prosecutor, without giving details. Diab is the owner of independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Egypt's government has launched an intense government crackdown against Islamists and other dissidents - including secular activists who led the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

In June, CPJ said reporters face unprecedented threats in President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's Egypt.

CPJ said Egypt currently had the highest number of journalists behind bars since it began keeping records in 1990.

It said the threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of a stifling atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics.

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