An Egyptian court sentenced three journalists to 3 months in prison on Tuesday for “spreading false news about the Interior Ministry”. The North Cairo Criminal Court also fined the journalists — all of whom work for the Al-Dostour newspaper — 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($ 1,300), reported Aswat Masriya, an Egyptian affiliate of Reuters. This is an initial judgment against which the defendants can appeal.
The convicted journalists are Reda Edward, the Chairman of Al-Dostour; Saeed Mohammed Wahba, Al-Dostour’s editor-in-chief; and Hussein Mahmoud, a journalist at the newspaper.
The Interior Ministry filed a criminal lawsuit against the newspaper, alleging that it published false news about the government department, including several “humiliating” phrases. It cited the examples of “the ministry’s brutality”, the ministry “wasting the dignity of Egyptian citizens”, and “the collapse of the security body [run by the Interior Ministry] from moral and security perspectives”.
The union of journalists has repeatedly criticised the imprisonment of its members and recommended the annulment of their sentences within the legislative draft that was submitted by the union for the proposed united media law.
The current Egyptian regime led by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has a poor record of violating journalists’ rights. The New York-based International Committee to Protect Journalists alleges that the Egyptian authorities jailed 23 journalists in 2015, making it the second worst offender after China.
Press Syndicate leaders Yahia Qallash, Gamal Abdel-Rahim and Khaled El-Balshei are currently facing trial on charges that include “harbouring wanted journalists inside the syndicate headquarters and propagating false news.”
Their case arose after a protest by journalists against the security forces who stormed the Press Syndicate building in May and arrested journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud El-Sakka. The two were charged with “breaching the Demonstration Law, and disturbing public peace”.