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Journalist Hamdi Kandil faces defamation charge

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, May 20, 2010 - The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a criminal defamation lawsuit filed by Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit against independent journalist Hamdi Kandil. He faces up to six months in jail and a discretionary fine if convicted.

A prosecutor summoned Kandil on Tuesday to inform him of defamation charges brought in connection with a May 3 article in the opposition daily Al-Shuruq, according to local news accounts. The article covered several issues, including corruption, the recent renewal of the Emergency Law, and criticism of Aboul Gheit for issuing a statement that contradicted previous comments by Egypt's ambassador to Israel.

"Public officials cannot hide behind such outdated laws as criminal defamation," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Journalists not only have a right but a duty to scrutinize the work of government ministers. We call on the Egyptian judiciary to drop its charges against Hamdi Kandil without delay."

Kandil, a veteran journalist and one of Egypt's most prominent media personalities, is the spokesman for the newly established National Association for Change, a coalition of Egyptians from diverse political backgrounds who oppose the current government and have called for an overhaul of the country's political system.

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