Statement: Release Egyptian Journalist Hossam Bahgat
Partners in the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) coalition – Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Akahata, Coalition of African Lesbians, CREA, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and Federation for Women and Family Planning – condemn the detention of Egyptian journalist Hossam Bahgat by the military police.
In addition to his work as an investigative journalist, for which he is currently being detained, Bahgat has been for the last 15 years a prominent, well-respected and highly effective human rights defender. In 2002, he founded the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and remained its Executive Director until 2013.
Bahgat has been charged with “deliberately spreading false information with the purpose of harming public order or public interest” and “publishing, with malicious intent, false news that is likely to disturb public order.” This is in relation to his investigative writing, and in particular one report he wrote for Mada Masr, a Cairo-based news website, entitled “A coup busted?” pertaining to the secret military trial of 26 officers for plotting “regime change”. The Egyptian military cannot consider itself to be above scrutiny. The levying of these charges against Bahgat is a violation of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Egypt’s constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party.
Bahgat was summoned to appear before the Military Intelligence on Sunday, November 8 at 9am local time. He did so and was then interrogated without any legal counsel until around 5:30pm when he was allowed to call for lawyers of his own choosing. Fifteen human rights lawyers attended the remaining interrogation. He was then charged and transferred to an undisclosed location for a 4-day detention. As of now, the last time Bahgat was seen was 9pm Sunday evening. He is due to appear before the military prosecutor on Wednesday, November 11. This military procedure being applied to Bahgat, a civilian is undue and unwarranted, and must be halted.
The SRI coalition partners call for Bahgat’s immediate release, and dropping of the charges levied against him.