March 22, 2002 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Journalist and editor sentenced to jail for libel

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) protested today against six-month jail sentences passed on journalists Adel Hammuda and Essam Fahmy, of the weekly Sawt al-Umma, for libelling a wealthy businessman and appealed to Egyptian justice minister Farouq Seif al-Nasr to ensure the sentences were not carried out. "Without saying what we think about the case, we urge you to do everything in your power to see that the two sentences are not implemented," RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter. He noted that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Abid Hussain, in a report on 18 January 2000, had called on "all governments to ensure media offences were not punished by imprisonment except for those involving racist or discriminatory remarks or appeals for violence" and had added that "imprisonment for peacefully expressing an opinion was a serious violation of human rights". RSF noted that two journalists, Mahmud Mahran and Abd-al-Munim Gamal al-Din Abd al-Munim, are currently in prison in Egypt. Adel Hammuda, a journalist with Sawt al-Umma, and Essam Fahmy, the paper's managing editor, were convicted on 21 March of libelling businessman Nagib Sawiris, head of one of Egypt's two biggest telecommunications groups, Orascom. They were sentenced to six months imprisonment each as well as fines of 500 Egyptian pounds (122 euros) because of an article published at the beginning of this year referring to shady business practices by Sawiris. The two journalists are free pending appeal.