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"El-Wafd" journalist receives one-month prison sentence

(HRinfo/IFEX) - On 28 October 2007, yet another Egyptian journalist was sentenced to jail. The Assiut criminal court sentenced Yonis Darwish, an Assiut-based correspondent for the opposition newspaper "El-Wafd", to one month in prison.

The case relates to a news story the newspaper published about a municipal session. A lawsuit was filed against Darwish by a lawyer who questioned the story's accuracy.

"El-Wafd" is the newspaper of the Wafd political party, one of the oldest parties in Egypt. The party recently survived a conflict over its presidency. With that conflict now resolved, the party has re-emerged as a serious opposition group. However, the wave of recent court rulings against employees of the party's newspaper indicate that press freedom in Egypt is deteriorating, and that opposition parties' activities are being contained with an iron hand. The editor-in-chief of "El-Wafd", Anwar Alhwary, and the head of the party itself, Mahmoud Abaza, were both recently subject to convictions.

"No one knows the number of lawsuits filed against journalists and writers in Egypt; there are about 500 cases every year, at an estimate. Prisons have become the expected residence of journalists in Egypt," said Said Gamal Eid, executive director of HRinfo.

"Almost three years have passed since the president made his promise to put an end to the imprisonment of journalists in publishing cases," added Gamal Eid. "He has not fulfilled that promise, nor even kept things as they were. On the contrary, the trend of imprisoning journalists and writers has worsened, which makes us wonder: Have we misunderstood the promise? Was it 'an increase' rather than 'an end' to prison sentences in publishing cases that the president promised?"

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