CAIRO – A leading investigative journalist and human rights advocate is facing accusations from Egypt's military prosecutor, his colleague said Sunday.
Lina Attalah, the chief editor of independent news website Mada Masr, said on Twitter that Hossam Bahgat told her over the phone that he has been moved to military prosecution following hours of interrogation by military intelligence Sunday.
Mada Masr reported that Bahgat said "he may be charged with `publishing inaccurate and false information that harms national interests,' although no charges have been formally brought against him at this time."
The website reported that Bahgat received a summons at his home address in Alexandria on Thursday, and arrived at Military Intelligence headquarters in Cairo at 9 a.m. on Sunday. He was not allowed to be accompanied by a lawyer, the site reported.
Originally a journalist, Bahgat founded and directed the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a top Egyptian rights organization. He was honored with a Human Rights Watch Alison Des Forges Award in 2011.
Bahgat returned to journalism and has recently published a series of investigative journalism reports on Mada Masr. His most recent report details the August 2015 conviction of a group of military officers for trying to plot a coup.
"The arrest of Hossam Bahgat today is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression in Egypt," said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International in a statement. "The Egyptian military cannot continue to consider itself above the law and immune from criticism."
Also Sunday, Egypt's state-run news agency reported that authorities detained newspaper owner Salah Diab and his son on orders from the public funds prosecutor, without giving details. Diab is the owner of independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Egypt's government has launched an intense government crackdown against Islamists and other dissidents - including secular activists who led the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
In June, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said reporters face unprecedented threats in President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's Egypt. CPJ said Egypt currently had the highest number of journalists behind bars since it began keeping records in 1990.
It said the threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of a stifling atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics.