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Group of bloggers, political party representatives and journalists arrested by government forces

(Freedom House/IFEX) - Washington, January 15, 2010 - Freedom House condemns the arrest of 19 activists in Egypt - among them leading bloggers, political party representatives, and journalists - and demands their immediate release without harm.

The group was arrested by government forces while traveling to the southern Egyptian town of Naga Hammadi to express their condolences to the families of those killed during last week's sectarian violence, in which gunmen killed or injured some 20 Copts as they left Christmas services on January 6.

"Today's arrests were a particularly egregious example of what has become a pattern of Egyptian government interference in citizens' right to freedom of expression," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "Something is desperately wrong when people are treated like criminals merely for attempting to show sympathy and solidarity with fellow countrymen."

Seven of the activists are participants in Freedom House's New Generation network, which includes fellows who have come on U.S. and international exchanges, including three who are scheduled to come to the United States on Freedom House's USAID-funded New Media Activism study tour in late February.

"The Egyptian government has failed in addressing sectarian violence because it uses only security measures to combat unrest," said Daniel Calingaert, deputy director of programs at Freedom House. "With the latest arrests, it has muzzled active bloggers and members of civil society who were taking the initiative to play a constructive role in reconciliation," he noted.

Egypt is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2009.

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