Monday, September 29, 2008

Egypt editor jailed amid press row


"A newspaper editor has been jailed for two months after publishing articles suggesting Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, was seriously ill.

An Egyptian appeals court on Sunday upheld a guilty verdict against Ibrahim Eissa, the chief editor of Egypt's independent Al-Dustur daily, for spreading "false information … and damaging public interest and national stability," a judicial source said.

The ruling followed stories he published last August on the Egyptian president's health, saying that the 80-year-old leader occasionally lapsed into a coma. Prosecutors said that Eissa's comments led to foreign investors withdrawing more than $350 million from the country's stock exchange.

'Gates of hell'

Eissa, who had been convicted by a lower court in March and sentenced to six months in prison, told the AFP news agency that the court ruling "opens the gates of hell for the Egyptian press and confirms the state's hostile position towards freedom of opinion and expression".

He said: "This verdict isn't just about freedom of the press and freedom in this country. This proves that anything concerning the president is a sacred and untouchable matter.

"In this country, it's normal for journalists to be jailed while businessmen are freed," he said in reference to an acquittal in August of five defendants over a 2006 ferry sinking in which more than 1,000 people died......

At least seven journalists were sentenced to up to two years in prison in September 2007 on charges ranging from misquoting the justice minister to spreading rumours about Mubarak.

More than 20 newspapers suspended publication for a day in protest over the crackdown."

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