May 11, 2017

Three journalists sentenced to five years, two others acquitted

Egypt/Journalists Protesting - KHALED DESOUKI / AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the release of all journalists who are unjustly detained in Egypt after a court sentenced three journalists to five years in prison on 8 May and acquitted two others.

The court was retrying the so-called “Rabaa operations room” case, in which there were almost 50 defendants.

The journalists who received the five-year jail terms are Samhi Mostafa and Abdullah Fakharany of the opposition website Rassd and Amgad TV presenter Mohamed Adly.

They were sentenced to life imprisonment (the equivalent to 25 years) at the original trial in April 2015, as were the three journalists who have now been acquitted. There has been no official explanation as to why some have been acquitted and others sentenced this time.

“We condemn the presence of journalists in this political mass trial and we call on the justice system to quash the conviction of the three who were sentenced and to release all journalists who are unjustly detained in Egypt,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

The acquitted journalists included Hani Salah Al-Deen, the former news editor of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV channel Misr 25 (which the authorities closed in July 2013), and Mossab Al Barbary, the head of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood TV channel Ahrar 25.

They were all charged with disseminating false news, inciting violence and chaos, and being part of an “operations room” aimed at orchestrating attacks against the government during demonstrations in Cairo’s Rabaa Adawiya Square in August 2013 in support of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

Those convicted are allowed to appeal.

The defendants included other journalists and media professionals but RSF was not able to establish that they were arrested in connection with their media work.

Ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Egypt is one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.