Egypt editor jailed over Mubarak health rumours

Outspoken Egyptian editor Ibrahim Eissa was sentenced to six months in jail on Wednesday for writing rumours about President Hosni Mubarak’s health, a justice official said.

Eissa, editor-in-chief of al-Dustur daily, was charged with spreading “false information ... damaging the public interest and national stability” and had faced up to three years in prison. He can appeal against the sentence.

Eissa had been due to tried before a state security court where he would have enjoyed no right of appeal, but eventually the trial took place in an ordinary court after what the journalists’ union called regime backpedalling.

The charge stemmed from accusations that Eissa’s reports on Mubarak’s health last August led investors to pull their money out of Egypt.

Eissa was accused of harming Egypt’s economy after the rumours allegedly caused foreign investors to withdraw investments worth more than $350-million from the stock exchange.

Speculation about Mubarak was widely reported on in Egypt’s independent press and included reports of his hospitalisation, travel abroad for treatment and even death.

At least seven journalists were sentenced in September alone to up to two years in prison on charges ranging from misquoting the justice minister to spreading rumours about Mubarak (79).

The crackdown prompted 23 papers in October to suspend publication for one day in protest.

As with other trials of journalists, the case against Eissa was brought by a private individual since Egyptian law allows citizens to lodge complaints that can then lead to criminal convictions.

The harsh treatment of the Egyptian media led the United States last year to voice “deep concern” at the convictions, a criticism rejected by Egypt as “unacceptable interference” by its ally.—Sapa-AFP

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