Updated on November 10: Egyptian journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat was released by the Egyptian military early this morning but still faces charges. We welcome his release but call for the withdrawal of any charges against him stemming from his journalistic activities and express continuing concern about the escalating crackdown on the exercise of the freedoms of expression and assembly among journalists and other members of civil society.
Stanford University faculty members today called for the immediate release of Egyptian journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat. Bahgat was detained by the Egyptian military on November 8, 2015, in apparent retaliation for publishing an investigative report in an online newspaper that was critical of the military. Bahgat is one of the leading investigative journalists in Egypt and is the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, one of Egypt’s most prominent and effective human rights organizations. Bahgat is currently being held by the military in an unknown location without access to his lawyers and may face criminal charges before a military tribunal for his work.
Baghat has visited Stanford University to participate in academic conferences related to human rights. Human rights and international law faculty at the university who know Bahgat and his work condemned his military detention and called for his release.
“The Egyptian military’s detention of Hossam Bahgat for doing his job as an investigative journalist is simply unacceptable,” said Jenny S. Martinez, Professor of Law and the Warren Christopher Professor in the Practice of International Law & Diplomacy at Stanford Law School. “This is an attack on independent journalism and human rights organizations in Egypt, and it will seriously set the country back. Respect for freedom of expression and an independent media are essential elements of a stable society. This baseless arrest is part of a broader and unfortunate trend in Egypt to close off civil society and the space for peaceful dissent that are essential for turning the tide to create a more stable government and country.”
Martinez criticized the Egyptian government for raising the possibility that such a prominent journalist would face criminal trial in a military tribunal for publishing reports critical of the government. “Military trials of civilians, including journalists, are inconsistent with international standards.”
“The Egyptian government should release Bahgat immediately and without charge,” said Beth Van Schaack, the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor for Human Rights at Stanford Law School. “Bahgat is world renowned for his work on behalf of vulnerable individuals and groups within Egypt, including Islamists, women, persons with disabilities, religious minorities, persons infected with Hepatitis C, and the poor. His work is inspired by the principle that the violation of the dignity or human rights of any one citizen in Egypt is a threat to all Egyptians. Bahgat’s arrest confirms this to be true.”
James Cavallaro, Professor of Law, Director of Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, likewise condemned Egypt’s action. “Freedom of expression and due process guarantees must be respected,” Cavallaro said. “Bahgat’s detention and possible military trial will directly affect Egypt’s international reputation and standing. If there is no legitimate basis for detention, they need to release him.”
Major international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have also called for Bahgat’s prompt release without charge.