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Journalist fined after publishing article about worker safety issue at factory

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 8 June 2011 - ANHRI condemns a 6 June 2011 verdict issued by the Al Dokki misdemeanor court in which the judge fined Ahmed El Gamal, a journalist and editor for the "Ad-Dustour" newspaper, 20,000 L.E. (approx. US$3,350) for insulting and libelling the chairman of Kapci Paints Co. in an article published on 27 December 2010.

"Ad-Dustour" published a report written by Ahmed el Gamal in Issue No. 1188 entitled "El Badri Farghali accuses Kapci Paints factory of laying off labourers who suffered occupational injuries". The journalist published an interview with El Badri Farghali, a former member of parliament, head of the General Union for Pensioners, and a prominent labour leader, who accused Kapci of not informing labourers about the risk of infection they might face in dealing with chemicals at the factory. Subsequently, engineer Mohamed Mohamed Ahmed El Sayed, the chairman of Kapci, filed a lawsuit against El Badri Farghali, Ahmed el Gamal, then editor-in-chief Ayman Sharaf and newspaper chairman Reda Daoud, accusing them of insult and libel. A number of hearings were held in the case until the verdict fining the journalist was issued on 6 June 2011.

It is interesting to note that the court issued a verdict against Ahmed el Gamal alone and acquitted the other defendants even though the journalist had simply published a statement by a prominent individual who expressed his opinion on an important issue as a defender of Egyptian labour rights. The Egyptian authorities should have investigated the risks the labourers face rather than passing judgment on the journalist and punishing him for doing his work of informing the public.

ANHRI's Legal Unit Aid for Freedom of Expression has decided to join the journalist's legal team in appealing the verdict, calling for a retrial in an appeals court, in support of justice and freedom of expression, and annulment of the verdict.

"We thought that freedom of the press and freedom of expression would improve in Egypt after the 25 January Revolution, to fulfill the expectations and ambitions of the Egyptian people. Obviously, the press freedom situation has not changed much relative to the situation during the former regime. The verdict issued against Ahmed el Gamal is representative of the ongoing deterioration in general freedoms, which started with the detention of blogger Michael Nabil, then continued with interference in the work of the media and the summoning of several journalists, media personnel and judges for investigation owing to opinions they had expressed," ANHRI said.

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