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Newspaper editor-in-chief faces libel and defamation charges

(HRinfo/IFEX) - On 4 September 2007, HRinfo condemned the witch-hunt campaign the government and a number of pro-government newspapers have launched against "Al-Dostur" newspaper and its editor-in-chief, Ibrahim Essa. Essa is facing libel and defamation charges and is scheduled to appear before the state security deputy on 5 September 2007.

The lack of information and transparency that is typical of the government resulted in the stirring up of rumors about the president's health. Numerous pro-government, independent, opposition and foreign media outlets reported on these rumours. Some journalists and government officials used the reports on these rumors, however, as a pretext to target "Al-Dostur" and Essa.

It is disconcerting that the editor-in-chief is scheduled to appear before the state security deputy rather than before the deputy of publications, the authority with the sole jurisprudence to investigate complaints and claims against journalists.

According to HRinfo, the Supreme Council for Journalism, which is dominated by the ruling party and government, has joined in the persecution of journalists and the press. The Council reportedly issued a warning against journalists calling for a "curbing of the transgressors" who publish inappropriate material, and threatening to take its own appropriate measures against journalists.

"It is quite sad that some journalists work as informants for the government, seeking profits at the expense of their colleagues. It is a crime to have a regulatory body that was supposed to protect journalists' right to freedom of expression squealing on journalists. Shame on this (Supreme Council for Journalism) for acting in this manner," said HRinfo executive director Gamal Eid.

"To have an individual summoned before the deputy of state security casts reasonable doubt on the transparency and integrity of the questioning process. We advise Mr. Essa to ask to appear before a court of law. Regardless, we shall attend his questioning and respect his choice," added Eid.

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