The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said that the latest jail terms handed down for journalists in Egypt have made it one of the most repressive countries for media in the world.
“In a matter of months, Egypt has become one of the most repressive countries for journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The authorities have shamelessly and relentlessly pursued reporters through the courts and they use criminal defamation to intimidate and stifle critics.”
On Saturday, an Egyptian court convicted opposition newspaper al-Wafd’s Editor-in-Chief Anwar al-Hawari, Chairman of the Board and opposition-party leader Mahmoud Abaza and reporter Younes Darwish on charges of libeling two lawyers. They were sentenced to a month in jail.
In another recent case against al-Wafd in September an Egyptian court sentenced editor al-Hawari and journalists Mahmud Ghallab and Amir Othman 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.”
Egyptian authorities are also pursuing charges against Ibrahim Eissa for allegedly publishing false news about the president's health in 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. 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 these cases are part of a wave of media repression on the part of the Egyptian government. In September, the courts sentenced at least seven journalists to jail for articles critical of top Egyptian politicians and officials.
“Attacks on Egyptian media are increasing at an alarming rate and it is clear that the government is sending a strong message that it will not tolerate critical reporting,” said White.
“This 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. We call on President Mubarak to end these politically motivated prosecutions and allow journalists to work freely and independently.”
The IFJ is supporting the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate 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.
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide