CPJ's Letter to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt
Join CPJ's protest of the criminal libel conviction of Amer Abdel Hadi Nassef


May 29, 1998


Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to strongly protest last week's appellate court decision upholding a libel conviction against Amer Abdel Hadi Nassef, a journalist who writes regularly for the weekly newspaper Al-Ousbou'.

On May 20, an appellate court upheld a three month prison sentence against Nassef for allegedly defaming Egyptian writer Tharwat Abaza in an article published in the daily newspaper Al-Ahrar in 1996. Nassef is currently serving his sentence in Torah Mazraa Prison.

Nassef is the fourth Egyptian journalist to be jailed for libel since February 1998, when an appellate court sentenced Magdy Hussein, editor in chief of the bi-weekly Al-Sha'b, and Muhammad Hilel, a reporter for the same newspaper, to one year in prison for allegedly libeling Alaa' al-Alfi, the son of former Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi. Just weeks after the convictions of Hussein and Hilel, an appellate court upheld a criminal libel conviction against Gamal Fahmy, managing editor of the now-defunct weekly Al-Dustur and a journalist with the weekly Al-Arabi, sentencing him to six months in prison. Fahmy was accused of libeling Abaza in a 1995 column published in Al-Arabi.

We note with concern that the convictions of Hussein, Hilel, Fahmy, and Nassef represent the first cases of journalists being jailed in Egypt for libel offenses ever documented by CPJ. And we are further alarmed by the dozens of other Egyptian journalists currently facing criminal prosecution for libel and other journalism-related offenses. According to the Cairo-based Center for Human Rights Legal Aid (CHRLA), at least 72 editors and reporters are threatened by the prospect of imprisonment for publication offenses in cases that are either awaiting trial or are under investigation.

CPJ has written to Your Excellency on previous occasions expressing grave concern over the ongoing criminal prosecution of journalists in Egypt. CPJ deplores the use of criminal libel statutes against members of the press in response to material they publish, irrespective of the merits of a specific case. Such punitive sanctions run counter to accepted democratic practices for a free press and serve only to stifle independent reporting.

CPJ, a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, views the imprisonment of Magdy Hussein, Muhammad Hilel, Gamal Fahmy, and Amer Nassef as grave threats to the press in Egypt. We urge Your Excellency to examine all possible legal options to rescind the appellate court rulings against Magdy Hussein, Muhammad Hilel, Gamal Fahmy, and Amer Nassef in accordance with universally accepted norms for press freedom. We also urge you to end future criminal prosecutions of journalists for libel and to initiate reforms to abolish articles in the Egyptian penal code which provide for the imprisonment of journalists for publications offenses.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We will continue to closely monitor all developments with regard to these issues. We look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.



William A. Orme, Jr.

Executive Director

Join CPJ in protesting the libel conviction against Abcel Hadi Nassef. Fax a letter to :

His Excellency Mohammad Hosni Mubarak President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Oruba Palace
Heliopolis, Cairo

202-260-5417 or 202-355-5700