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Egypt: UN experts welcome release of Hossam Bahgat but concerns remain on the situation of journalists and rights defenders

GENEVA (11 November 2015) – The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, while welcoming the release of Hossam Bahgat, today reiterate grave concern at the situation of fear and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders which inhibit the legitimate exercise of their rights and the performance of their work in Egypt.

“Hossam Bahgat has been a leading member of the human rights community in Egypt for well over a decade, shining a spotlight on abuses through his fact-finding and investigative journalism,” said David Kaye. According to reliable information, Mr. Bahgat was detained by military authorities on 8 November, during investigation solely based on his writing and work as journalist, and was then released today.

"Even after his release, his detention sends a signal of disrespect for the very principles of freedom of expression that President Sisi only days ago claimed his government upheld," added the UN expert.

"We are deeply concerned that the fear of criminalization and of being detained, even if not ultimately charged, creates an environment that deters reporting and intimidates writers and activists of all kinds," said Michel Forst.

“This adds to the already very difficult environment in which journalists and human rights defenders operate in Egypt. According to credible reporting, we understand that dozens of reporters are being held by Egyptian authorities today," the UN experts stressed.

This statement is endorsed by the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez; and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mónica Pinto.

Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Egypt: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/EGIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, Victoria Kuhn, UN Human Rights in Geneva (+41 22 917 9278 / vkuhn@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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