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Journalist sentenced to 15 years in prison

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 23 October 2010 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns the 15-year prison sentence issued in absentia by the Cairo Criminal Court against Allam Abdel Ghaffar, a journalist at "Youm7" newspaper. Allam reported on the frequent power outages at the Holding Company for Biological Products & Vaccines (VACSERA), which led to the spoiling of imported biological products.

The journalist used documents that were later proven to be forged. The newspaper published a correction of the report, which resulted in a court case against the journalist only and not the newspaper. Allam was charged with disseminating false news and forged documents.

ANHRI said, "The crime that Allam committed does not merit such a heavy sentence. This sentence is catastrophic in regards to press freedom in Egypt. Though he referred to forged documents in his report, he did it out of good will. The young enthusiastic journalist was driven to unofficial means to access information, as do the majority of journalists in Egypt. In Egypt, getting the required information is much harder than issuing an imprisonment sentence against a journalist.

"This sentence puts freedom of the press in Egypt at stake. Allam is not the only person responsible for this crime. The main responsibility lies with the Egyptian government as no act exists to regulate information access and circulation, a core issue for press work. As well, the government does not provide safe working conditions for journalists".

ANHRI condemns this dangerous sentence and states that any journalist in Egypt is liable to be a victim of forged documents because of the constraints and lack of procedural access to official information. It is necessary to have a legal framework for the access and circulation of information to facilitate press work and to compel official authorities to cooperate with citizens who have the right to information according to national and international legislation.
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