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Overseas Press Club of America Deplores Detention of Journalists in Egypt
NEW YORK, New York – November 11, 2015 – The Overseas Press Club of America welcomes the release of Egyptian journalist Hossam Bahgat from military custody but remains deeply alarmed by his detention, part of a persistent pattern of government attacks on freedom of the press in Egypt that have resulted in the imprisonment of at least 18 journalists simply for doing their jobs.
Egypt’s military intelligence summoned Bahgat for questioning on Sunday morning and by the end of the day he had been transferred to the office of the military prosecutor. Bahgat was told he would be charged with publishing false news that damaged the national interests of Egypt. He was held incommunicado in an undisclosed location for three days before he was released on Tuesday after an international outcry.
Bahgat’s ordeal appears to have been retribution for a deeply reported investigation that detailed the secret military prosecution in August of 26 army officers accused of plotting a coup against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt. The investigation was published in both English and Arabic last month by Mada Masr, an independent news organization.
The Overseas Press Club of America is committed to upholding the highest standards of international journalism and is greatly disturbed by the detention of Bahgat and the persecution of all journalists in Egypt who face the threat of arrest, indefinite detention without charge or military trials for doing their jobs.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there are at least 18 journalists in detention in Egypt, the highest number since the organization began keeping track in 1990.
“Journalism is not a crime,” said Marcus Mabry, president of the Overseas Press Club of America. “We urge authorities in Egypt to remember that and to respect the freedom of the press.”
Bahgat is one of Egypt’s most well respected investigative journalists. He was a visiting scholar at Columbia University School of Journalism during the 2014-2015 school year. In 2002 he founded The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, one of the most well-known human rights organizations in Egypt, which he directed until 2013.
The Overseas Press Club is an international association of journalists based in New York City that works to celebrate the best international journalism, to educate the next generation of foreign correspondents and to promote international press freedom and the well-being of colleagues in the field.