CIHRS Denounces Attack on Independent Press in Egypt

In Egypt /Road Map Program by

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) expresses its deep concern regarding the ruling issued by al-Warraq Misdemeanor Court yesterday morning against Journalist Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of ed-Destour and Sout el-Ommaha newspapers. Ibrahim Eissa, Sahar Zaki (an editor at ed-Destour) and Saed Mohamed Abdullah (citizen) were sentenced to one year in prison with labor, a bail of L.E. 10 000 and L.E. 2001 as temporary compensation.

In its April 5, 2006 issue, ed-Destour newspaper had included an article entitled “A Citizen from Waraq el-Arab Calls for the Prosecution of Mubarak and his Family and Reimbursement of 500 billions from the Public Sector and Foreign Aid.” Consequently, four lawyers, a company owner and two owners of a carpenter workshop filed a lawsuit before al-Warraq Court in which they accused ed-Destour’s editor-in-chief and editor in addition to a citizen from al-Waraq of defaming the President of the Republic.

The CIHRS expresses its deep concern at the continued restriction of the freedom of press in Egypt, and also at the increased spread of lawsuits against independent newspapers which dare to criticize the government and President Mubarak. It is worth-mentioning that the President did not cancel the penalty of imprisonment in publication offences as promised more than two years ago.

In this context, it is also important to mention that the Cairo Criminal Court has held on June 18, 2006 the first session in the trial of Wael el-Ebrashi, the executive editor-in-chief of Sout el-Ommaha newspaper; Hoda Abo Bakr, editor; and Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Hamid, managing editor of Afaq Arabia newspaper in reference to publishing a black list of judges claimed to have been involved in rigging the latest Parliamentarian elections.

The CIHRS expresses its astonishment with regard to prosecuting editor-in-chiefs in publication offences although the Constitutional Court had rendered article 195 (a) of the Penal Law, that stipulates that editor-in-chief bears hypothetical responsibility, unconstitutional on February 1, 1997. The CIHRS calls anew for the prompt enactment of a legislation prohibiting the imprisonment of journalists in publication cases, putting an end to the series of lawsuits and investigations against independent journalists, and abstaining from their prosecution in accordance with provisions that contravene international standards of freedom of expression and/or provide for imprisonment as a penalty in publication offences. The CIHRS finally reiterates the necessity of reviewing legal legislation that allow non-competent entities or persons of no direct interest to file lawsuits, and warns that such legislation might open the door to the re-emergence of Hisbaha cases.

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