Update: Journalist Hossam Bahgat may face charges of publishing false news

CAIRO: Well-known journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat may face charges of publishing “false information that harms national interests,” he told Mada Masr.

Bahgat arrived at the military intelligence headquarters in Cairo at 9 a.m. Sunday per a summons order that did not disclose any reasons; he has been referred to the military prosecution after the questioning, according to Mada Masr.

Bahgat, the founder of the prominent human rights organization Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, has written a number of articles for Mada Masr that tackled military-related issues and trials.

Most recently, he wrote in October a report on 26 military officers who were tried for attempting to overthrow the regime.

A military source told BBC Arabic that the information in Bahgat’s reports is “untrue.”

Journalism in Egypt

At least 18 journalists are behind bars in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. However, member of the Press Syndicate’s administration council Khaled el-Balshy told The Cairo Post in August that at least 35 journalists are detained.

Two Al-Jazeera journalists were released in September; it has not been reported if other journalists have been released since then. Of the most high-profile cases is that of jailed photojournalist Shawkan, whose trial will begin Dec. 12, about 28 months after his detention.

Meanwhile, three journalists were arrested in October; two of whom are charged with belonging to a “banned group” and another has not been provided with formal indictment. Hesham Jafaar, head of Mada for Media Development, and Hussam al-Sayed, a journalist who previously worked with Jafaar.

As for journalist Mahmoud Mostafa, he was arrested at Cairo Airport on his way to London Oct. 23 and only appeared four days later at the Homeland prosecution, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. His family reported the incident as an “enforced disappearance” to the Attorney-General, as part of several cases of so-called enforced disappearances of anti-regime activists and students.

Egypt ranked 158 out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index issued in April.

Sisi’s meetings with journalists results in ‘allegiance to the state’

On Nov. 1, Sisi said in a speech at a military cultural symposium the criticism that was directed at him after Alexandria’s infrastructure failed to contain severe rainfall was “unacceptable.”

“I feel that people (journalists) are not aware, do not understand anything what so ever, just holding a microphone to speak into or a newspaper to write in. No, people, this is a country we are going to lose,” Sisi said.

“This way, we spread ignorance and lack of awareness amongst people. We do not spread genuine awareness, as if issues are resolved with keys, it is not like we press a button and it is over,” he added.

Egypt’s president approved an anti-terrorism law in August despite criticism by local and international press freedom advocates, including Egypt’s Press Syndicate. The law, for example, prohibits reporting that contradicts statements by the Defense Ministry.

In October 2014, after President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with the editors-in-chief of Egyptian newspaper and other media professionals, many journalists signed a statement pledging allegiance to the state by applying “pro-state” measures in their reporting. In the same month, he met with several Arab editors-in-chief.

In December 2014, the president also met with a number of young journalists to discuss the media’s role in raising the awareness of citizens. He also held a meeting with journalists and editors-in-chief from Nile Basin and Sub-Saharan states in February 2015.

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