Two month sentence for prominent Egyptian editor

A prominent Egyptian newspaper editor faces two months in prison for writing an article about the health of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Dustour, was sentenced to a six-month prison term in March 2008, but lodged an appeal.

The appeal, which was heard on Sunday, led to his sentence being reduced by the Boulaq appeals court in Cairo.

He was charged with publishing information considered by the authorities to be “damaging to the public interest and Egypt’s national stability.” The articles in question suggested that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s health had deteriorated.  

The authorities claim that the articles were untrue and led foreign investors to withdraw investments worth some 350 million US dollars damaging the country’s economy.

The editor remained at liberty, on bail, pending the outcome of the appeal. He will now have to serve the two-month prison sentence, although it has been challenged before the court of cassation, unless the Public Prosecutor decides to stay its execution until the court of cassation has given its decision.

Ibrahim Eissa was charged under Articles 171 and 188 of the Penal Code. His prosecution forms part of a wider pattern by the Egyptian authorities.

“The authorities use criminal defamation and other charges to chill media expression and reporting on issues that they consider to be beyond the ‘red lines’ of what may be disclosed to the public although they are, in reality, issues of clear public interest,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme, condemning the decision. “If Ibrahim Eissa is imprisoned, Amnesty International will consider him a prisoner of conscience and will call for his immediate and unconditional release.

“Amnesty International urges the Egyptian authorities to amend the controversial press law and all other provisions in the Penal Code that criminalise legitimate reporting and to cease using criminal defamation charges to harass journalists and prevent their reporting on matters of legitimate public interest.”