The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said that the latest moves by the Egyptian government in court cases against journalists are sending a chilling message that criticizing authorities will land reporters and editors in jail.
“We are shocked that the attacks on Egyptian media are increasing at such an alarming rate and it is clear that the government is sending a strong message that it will not tolerate critical reporting,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “Its policy is a clear attack on press freedom and basic human rights and the latest charges and sentences handed down against journalists appear to be part of an intimidation campaign.”
In the most recent case, Egyptian authorities have decided that their charges against Ibrahim Eissa for allegedly publishing false news about the president's health will be heard by the High Court of State Security, where a conviction cannot be appealed. Eissa will be the first journalist tried in the security court. If convicted he faces three to seven years in prison.
The Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicated (EJS) has heard that the court already plans to convict Eissa and give him the maximum sentence.
Eissa, editor of the Egyptian daily al-Dustour, has already been fined and sentenced to a year in jail for another critical article.
The IFJ says that Eissa’s case is part of a wave of media repression on the part of the Egyptian government. In September, the courts have sentenced at least seven journalists to jail for articles critical of top Egyptian politicians and officials.
On Monday an Egyptian court sentenced editor Anwar al-Hawari and journalists Mahmud Ghallab and Amir Othman from the opposition al-Wafd newspaper to two years in jail after they were convicted of publishing “untrue information which damaged the reputation of the justice system and the justice ministry.”
This decision followed the sentencing of Eissa and three other newspaper editors to a year in jail after they were convicted of defamation for articles which criticized President Hosni Mubarak, top officials or the President’s son.
“We call on President Mubarak to end these politically motivated prosecutions and allow journalists to work freely and independently,” White said. “We support our Egyptian colleagues in their fight against injustice and we will do what we can to help with their defence.”
The IFJ is supporting the EJS in its demand for repeal of the law that criminalises journalism and wants to overturn the convictions of all the journalists in the country. It is also supporting its Egyptians colleagues’ legal defences, including the defence for Eissa.
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide