The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed the release on Tuesday 10 November of Egyptian investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat, who was arrested last Sunday for allegedly distributing false information. The IFJ also urged the authorities to respect press freedom and stop harassing journalists following the attacks suffered by at least four other journalists in the last weeks, according to the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate (EJS).
Hossam Bahgat (37), a contributor to the independent news website Mada Masr and one of the country’s foremost investigative journalists, was released Tuesday morning after his arrest on Sunday 8 November, Mada Masr staff told reporters. The journalist was then charged with “publishing false news that harms national interests and disseminating information that disturbs public peace” by a military prosecutor. The allegations concerned an article he wrote in October about the trial of 26 military officers accused of a coup attempt in Egypt.
The IFJ and EJS are also very worried about the attacks suffered in the last weeks by Egyptian journalists Hisham Gafar, Husam al Sayed and Mahmoud Mustafa, who were held in secret location before being brought in front of the prosecutor, the EJS reported. Azza al Hennawy, who works for state run ERTU media house, was suspended from work after blaming President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s administration, following the flooding of Alexandria.
In a statement put out on Monday, the Egyptian union’s Press Freedom Committee expressed concerns over “the latest attack on press freedom, which included a return to the practice of arresting professional journalists, suspension of journalists who express dissenting views, holding arrested journalists in unknown locations for days before bring them in front of the general prosecutor and bringing criminal cases against journalists to undermine their professional work and the last case of prosecuting journalists in front of the military court.”
The IFJ shared the Egyptian union’s concerns and advocated for all the imprisoned journalists (about 40, according to reports) to be immediately released as a matter of urgency.
“We welcome our colleague Bahgat’s release, unfairly arrested on Sunday, but we don’t forget the ones who still remain behind bars in Egypt just for being journalists. We therefore urge the authorities to free them as well,” said the IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. “The use of the old legislations and recently adopted Anti-Terror law to silence critical reporters has pushed Egypt close to turning into a Police State. The Egyptian authorities have a legal responsibility to protect media freedom and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution adopted in 2014.”
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries