Monday, October 6, 2008

AFP: Egypt president pardons news editor sentenced to jail

CAIRO (AFP) — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday pardoned an outspoken editor sentenced to two months in jail after his newspaper published rumours on Mubarak's health, state-run MENA news agency reported.

An appeals court's decision last month to jail Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Dustour, provoked widespread criticism from media activists.

MENA said that Mubarak pardoned Eissa, who despite sentencing was not imprisoned, as part of the president's efforts to foster freedom of the press in Egypt.

Eissa welcomed the pardon but said Egypt was one of a few countries whose laws allow for reporters to be jailed.

"While I welcome this ruling, I think the issue is larger than that between one reporter and the president," he told AFP. "The issue is that of Egyptian journalism, which suffers from an arsenal
of laws that negate freedoms."

At least seven journalists were sentenced in September 2007 to up to two years in prison on charges ranging from misquoting the justice minister to spreading rumours about the 80-year-old president.

In February, an Al-Jazeera journalist who had been sentenced to six months over a film that highlighted torture in Egyptian police stations had her sentence reduced to a fine.
The harsh treatment of the Egyptian media led the United States last year to voice "deep concern" at the convictions, a criticism rejected by Egypt as "unacceptable interference" by its ally.

Eissa was accused of harming the economy after his paper's reports allegedly caused foreign investors to withdraw investments worth more than 350 million dollars from Egypt's stock exchange.

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