Egypt’s Foreign Ministry criticized a statement on Tuesday by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the arrest of Mada Masr contributor Hossam Bahgat.
Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid claimed the UN is focusing on individual cases and “jumping to conclusions related to freedom of expression granted to all Egyptians under the constitution, despite the basis for investigation [in Bahgat’s case] being in clear violation of the Egyptian Penal Code.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concern about Bahgat’s detention on Monday, describing him as a “human rights defender,” and highlighting his membership of the United Nations Development Program’s Global Civil Society Advisory Council.
“This is just the latest in a series of detentions of human rights defenders and others that are profoundly worrying,” the spokesperson for Ban Ki-Moon said in New York. “Pluralism and vibrant civil society are key for achieving long-term stability in the country, including the guarantee that all peaceful voices are heard and represented.”
The Foreign Ministry’s statement emphasized that a defendant is innocent until proven otherwise under Egyptian law, and Bahgat’s detention is pending investigation. It also stated that he was permitted to practice his constitutional right to a defense.
It is better for the UN Secretary General to use his influence “to seek accuracy and show concern for public issues related to collective and systematic violations against nations that are deprived of basic rights,” the statement added.
Bahgat was summoned by military intelligence on Saturday, before being referred to military prosecution with accusations of publishing false news that harms Egypt’s national security. His detention was renewed for four days pending investigation into the case.
Bahgat’s arrest has been met with a wave of anger and condemnation, both locally and internationally, as many organizations and individuals have declared their support for the detained journalist and urged Egyptian authorities to release him immediately. The hashtag #FreeHossamBahgat is trending on social media.