CAIRO, Egypt – On March 26, Egyptian tabloid editor Ibrahim Eissa was sentenced to six months in jail for printing rumors about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s health. Eissa, the editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Dustour, was charged with spreading “false information . . . damaging the public interest and national stability.”
Judge Sherif Mustafa said “the state has been put at risk” while reading the verdict, adding that Eissa “reported false news about the president’s health which he knew were fabricated.” The judge said that Eissa’s articles had threatened the economy. “Investors withdrew their investment from the country and the stock market collapsed, costing the economy some $350 million,” he said.
In August, Eissa printed stories speculating about the President’s failing health of President Mubarak. One of the articles said that the president had slipped into a coma. Neither Mubarak nor the state-run Egyptian media commented or denied the rumors for weeks until the president appeared in photos and gave an interview with the state-run media.
Eissa denounced the ruling as being politically motivated. “Is this a legal or political verdict? Is this a warning to journalists not to touch the President and not to write about anything related to him?”
Amnesty International echoed Eissa’s criticism. In a statement, Amnesty said, “This prosecution forms part of a wider pattern of the Egyptian authorities using criminal defamation and other charges to chill media expression and reporting on issues considered by the authorities as red lines, but which are, in reality, issues of clear public interest. It underlines the need for the government to amend the controversial press law and all other provisions in the Penal Code that criminalize legitimate reporting.”
Eissa was released on bond while he appeals his case.
For more information, please see:
Amnesty International – Amnesty International Condemns Editor’s Imprisonment– 27 March 2008
Associated Press – Egypt Editor Gets 6-Month Jail Sentence – 27 March 2008
AFP – Egypt Editor Given Six-Month Sentence for Mubarak Rumors – 26 March 2008
CNN – Journalist Jailed for Mubarak Reports – 26 March 2008
International Herald Tribune – Egyptian Tabloid Editor Receives Six Months Prison for Reporting on President’s Health – 26 March 2008
Reuters – Egypt Editor Sentenced to Six Months, Free on Bond – 26 March 2008