President promises to repeal laws that imprison journalists

New York, February 24, 2004—Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday pledged to reform Egypt’s laws, eliminating prison sentences for published material.

Galal Aref, head of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, told CPJ today that the Egyptian president called him yesterday and told him that journalists would no longer face the possibility of imprisonment for what they publish. Aref announced the news yesterday at the opening of the syndicate’s annual conference in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.

Other news organization also reported Mubarak’s pledge.

Aref told CPJ that this government promise would involve reforming Egypt’s press law and other laws that have been used to prosecute and imprison journalists. The syndicate’s spokesman, Yehia Qallash said that Parliament is expected to approve the necessary proposals to reform the existing laws.

Current laws, such as the 1996 press law, prescribe prison sentences of up to two years for defamation. Journalists in Egypt have also faced imprisonment under other Penal Code provisions for, among other things, “violating public morality” and “damaging national interest.” While, according to CPJ research, there are currently no journalists imprisoned in Egypt, several have been jailed for libel and others have faced prosecution.