Egyptian journalist sentenced to prison for defamation

New York, February 4, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an Egyptian criminal court’s decision on Tuesday to sentence a journalist to one year in prison and a fine of 60,000 Egyptian pounds (US$10,500) on criminal charges filed by another journalist who is also a member of parliament.

According to local news reports, Yasser Barakat, editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Mougaz was convicted of defamation in a suit filed by Mustafa Bakri, editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Osbo’ and member of the Egyptian parliament.

“We denounce the verdict against Yasser Barakat and call on the appeals court to overturn his conviction,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “As a public figure, Mustafa Bakri’s actions are rightly the subject of journalistic scrutiny. If he believes he has been defamed then he should bring the matter to a civil court not criminally prosecute.”

Barakat published an article in November 2007 and another in January 2008 accusing Bakri of engaging in “illegal profiteering”—taking advantage of his government positions to buy land for less than market value, Azza Mattar of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information told CPJ.