Journalist fined for defamation in Egypt

Cairo, June 18, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the legal action taken against an Egyptian journalist who was fined for defamation, and calls on the appeals court to reverse the ruling. In an unrelated incident, authorities briefly detained on Saturday an Egyptian journalist covering the run-off to the presidential election.

On June 10, Hanan Youssef, the deputy editor-in-chief of the local daily Al-Messa, was fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,654) by a Cairo court for defaming the paper’s former editor-in-chief, Khaled Imam, Youssef told CPJ. Al-Messa belongs to Dar Al-Tahrir, a state-owned publishing company.

Youssef was part of a group of journalists who had called for a change in the editorial staff of Egypt’s state-run newspapers after the January 2011 revolution, she told CPJ. She said that many Egyptian news outlets included staff members who maintained links to the ruling military regime. She said she had never mentioned Imam by name in her articles or otherwise and that she had not been given the opportunity for a proper defense. Youssef told CPJ she was appealing the ruling.

Youssef has written critically of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and has come out clearly in support of the revolution, she told CPJ. SCAF has targeted several critical journalists since former President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster over 16 months ago, CPJ research shows. Some journalists, such as bloggers Mikael Nabil Sanad and Alaa Abd el-Fattah, both staunch critics of the military regime, have been jailed, while others have been targeted through politicized trials on charges of “insulting the armed forces,” according to CPJ research.

“It is time for authorities to end this practice of prosecuting and harassing journalists for speaking out against the military regime,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney from New York. “The appeals court should strike down the judgment against Hanan Youssef.”

In an unrelated incident, Marwa Nasser, a freelance journalist and translator for several English-language online news publications, was briefly detained on Saturday while conducting interviews in front of a Cairo polling station, according to news reports. A supporter of Ahmed Shafik, the presidential candidate and former prime minister, reported the journalist for “suspicious behavior,” and so the police took Nasser to the prosecutor’s office for questioning, the reports said. She was released shortly after, and no explanation was given for her arrest, news reports said.