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Two journalists receive two-month prison sentences for libel

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has deplored the handing down of two-month prison sentences for libel to the former editor of the English-language paper "Khaleej Times", Shimba Kassiril Ganjadahran, and journalist Mohsen Rashed by a court in Dubai. The sentences came less than two weeks after five-month prison terms were given to two online journalists in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah (see IFEX alerts of 13 September, 24 and 21 August 2007).

"We are concerned by these sentences," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "Nothing justifies imprisonment for press offences. The relative freedom that UEA journalists seem to enjoy is threatened every time such trials take place."

Ganjadahran and Rashed were convicted on 24 September 2007 of libelling an Iranian-born Dubai woman by reporting on 28 June 2006 that she had sued her husband, who had then been imprisoned. The journalists have lodged an appeal and have not yet been jailed. The case will be heard further on 25 October.

Rashed told Reporters Without Borders he was surprised by the excessive sentence but said it was not the only case in the Gulf states. He mentioned the trial four years ago of the editor of the Kuwaiti paper "Al Seyassah" and noted that Gulf journalists were increasingly exercising self-censorship.

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