[QODLink]
Middle East
Egypt editor jailed amid press row
Guilty verdict upheld against editor behind stories on president Mubarak's health.
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2008 14:50 GMT
Eissa's comments allegedly led to the
flight of foreign capital [AP]

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.

Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, had earlier denounced the trial, saying it was part of a "pattern" by Egyptian authorities who bring criminal charges against journalists to "chill" media freedom in cases of public interest.

Crackdown protest

The Egyptian Hisham Mubarak Legal Centre, a human rights organisation, said that sentencing Eissa to jail for a publishing offence went against international treaties signed by Egypt to protect press freedoms.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information had earlier released a statement saying it hoped Mubarak would use his authority "to end the trial as he did several times by pardon or retrial".

"This case reminds us of the president's promise made four years ago to end imprisonment on crimes related to press publishing," the statement said.

Speculation about Mubarak's health was widely reported in Egypt's independent press and included reports he had been sent to hospital, travelled abroad for treatment and some suggested he had 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.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.