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Journalist sentenced to 12 months in prison

(EOHR/IFEX) - On 2 February 2010, the Giza Criminal Court issued a sentence of six months in prison and a fine of 20,000 pounds (approx. US$3,650) in Case No. 9364/2008 against Yasser Barakat, editor of "Al Mougaz" newspaper. The Court also issued a verdict in case No. 14131/2008 of six months in prison and a fine of 40,000 pounds (approx. US$7,300) against Barakat. These sentences are a new violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed under Egyptian law and international covenants on human rights.

The first case dates back to 15 January 2008, when it was filed by Mustafa Bakri, an MP, against Yasser Barakat after the newspaper published a report on Bakri in issue No. 94 of 2008.

The second case was also filed by Mustafa Bakri, who is also editor of "Al Osboa" (The Week), against Yasser Barakat, dating back to 19 February 2008 when "Al Mougaz" newspaper published a report on Bakri in issue No. 99.

EOHR reiterates its position of rejecting the imprisonment of journalists and writers in publishing cases. Civil compensation and financial penalties are more appropriate in cases of opinion and publication. Therefore, EOHR calls for a review of the Penal Code to abolish all penalties of imprisonment in publishing crimes and freedom of opinion cases.

EOHR emphasizes the right to criticize public figures and members of parliament because it is a right guaranteed to the press, and thus EOHR calls upon the Egyptian authorities, the Journalists Syndicate and the global community to work quickly to eliminate prison sentences in publication crimes, which are inconsistent with the conventions of international human rights law. EOHR emphasizes the importance of introducing legislative amendments to articles that punish journalists with imprisonment in all laws related to expression, publishing and printing. It also emphasizes the need for a legal mechanism to penalize the withholding of information to journalists by any governmental or public body and to prohibit the imposition of any restrictions on the free flow of information, without prejudice to the requirements of defence and national security, and non-discrimination in access to information among various newspapers.
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