Editor, reporter for weekly are sentenced to jail

New York, June 26, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores today’s decision by an Egyptian court to sentence two journalists to a year in prison for publishing a report critical of President Hosni Mubarak, his family, and other top officials.

The court in Al-Warrak, north of Giza, sentenced Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the independent weekly Al-Dustour, and Sahar Zaki, a reporter for the paper, to a year in prison for insulting Mubarak, the newspaper said in a statement today. The journalists, who were not present for the verdict, are free on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds pending appeal.

The case against Eissa and Zaki stems from an April 5, 2005, news item that reported efforts by an Egyptian lawyer to take Mubarak and his family to court on allegations of corruption, including the alleged misuse of foreign aid. The lawyer, Said Abdullah, was also sentenced today to a year in jail. Over all, Al-Dustour has been a persistently harsh critic of Mubarak and his government.

Two years ago, Mubarak pledged to eliminate prison penalties against journalists for what they publish. The promise remains unfulfilled, and Egyptian journalists continue to be brought before criminal courts and sentenced to jail because of their criticism of government officials and other influential figures. In 2006 alone, CPJ has documented the cases of at least two other journalists sentenced to jail terms on defamation charges.

“Taken together with President Mubarak’s empty promise, the continuing prosecutions of outspoken journalists demonstrate this government’s hostility toward independent journalism,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Egypt to put an end to the egregious practice of prosecuting journalists for their work.”