Outspoken editor’s jail sentence pardoned

New York, October 6, 2008―The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the presidential pardon today of a two-month jail sentence against Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Dustour.

On September 28, a Court of appeal in Cairo reduced a six-month jail term given in March to Eissa to two months in prison for “publishing false information and rumors” about President Hosni Mubarak’s health. The court said Eissa’s August 2007 articles were likely to disturb public security and harm the country’s economy.

The presidential pardon coincide with Egypt celebrates the anniversary of a 1973 war against the state of Israel.

“We are relieved that Ibrahim Eissa will not serve time in jail,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “His sentence was nothing more than retaliation for reporting the government did not like.”

Eissa was charged under the penal code in September 2007 with publishing reports about Mubarak’s health that were “liable to disturb public security and damage public interest.” The case was first submitted to the Emergency State Security Court, an exceptional tribunal that does not allow for appeals and rarely issues acquittals. But after local and international protests, it was later sent to a misdemeanor court,

Al-Dustour had reported on a rumor that the president was ailing, but while it was the only newspaper prosecuted for doing is, it was far from the only Egyptian paper to publish these speculations.

“The presidential pardon corrects a mistake that should have not been made,” Al-Dustour said in a statement. “The laws that restrict press freedom should be removed permanently rather than be fixed by exceptional [cases].”

Eissa currently faces several cases, most of them filed by members of the ruling national Democratic Party, which is headed by Mubarak, 80, and influenced by his son, Gamal, who is widely expected to succeed his father as president.