Two journalists receive six-month prison sentences

New York, March 26, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the prison sentences imposed last week on two journalists from the weekly independent newspaper Sawt Al-Umma.

On March 21, the Abdeen Misdemeanor Court convicted Adel Hammouda, editor, and Essam Fahmy, head of the paper’s board of directors, of defaming prominent Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris and sentenced them to six months in prison.

The charges stemmed from a series of articles published last year that detail alleged financial misconduct on the part of Sawiris and his telecommunications company, Orascom Telecom.

According to Hammouda, since the articles appeared, Sawiris has filed more than 20 suits in different localities against the journalists, all of which remain pending.

“Imposing prison sentences on journalists for covering stories of clear public interest is outrageous,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “The cases against Hammouda and Fahmy should be dropped immediately.”

On Sunday, the journalists posted a 500 pound (US$107) bail fee and filed an appeal, which will be heard in June.