Egyptian officials released human rights activist and journalist Hossam Bahgat on Tuesday after he signed a statement [Mada Masr report] promising to abide by legal procedures when reporting on matters concerning the Armed Forces. The statement also says he was not under physical or mental harm when signing. He was arrested [JURIST report] Sunday after military officials questioned him concerning a report he wrote on the secret trial of former military officers. Bahgat writes for Mada Masr and has also published controversial articles criticizing the ruling family’s lifestyle and post-2011 pardons. His detention was condemned internationally by advocacy groups including Amnesty International, the Community to Protect Journalists and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights [advocacy websites].
The prosecution and imprisonment of journalists by the Egyptian government has garnered widespread criticism from governments and rights groups worldwide. In August Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi [BBC profile] approved [JURIST report] a 54-article counter-terrorism law that has been met with significant controversy, as many believe it infringes on the freedom of the press. Many have said that the law defines terrorism too broadly and imposes harsh sentences and fines on violators. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] (HRW) criticized [JURIST report] Egypt’s new counterterrorism law saying it infringes on freedom of the press. HRW opposes the fact that the new law gives prosecutors the power to detain suspects without a court order. Also in August Egyptian police arrested [JURIST report] three people under the law for their role in spreading propaganda related to the Islamic State on Facebook.