[JURIST] Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders [advocacy websites] Friday accused Egypt of clamping down on freedom of the press after a court sentenced the editors of four tabloids for publishing criticisms of President Hosni Mubarak [official profile] and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) [party website]. Ibrahim Issa, editor of Al Dustour; Adel Hammouda, editor of Al-Fagr [media websites]; Wael Al-Abrashi, editor of the independent newspaper Sawt Al-Umma; and Abdel-Halim Qandil, former editor of Al-Karama, were convicted of defaming the president and sentenced to a year in prison and a 20,000 Egyptian pound fine each. Reporters without Borders said [press release] that Egypt has been cracking down on critical journalists at a time when the president's succession is at issue, while Amnesty International said [press release] that the charges against the editors were part of an organized campaign to discourage criticism against the government. AP has more.
The case against the editors is only one example of what critics see as recurrent attacks on the press by Egypt's government. On Tuesday, Egyptian prosecutors said that they would put al-Dustour editor Issa on trial in a separate action for allegedly spreading "rumors" about Mubarak's health [Reuters report]. In 2006, human rights groups condemned a court decision [JURIST report] to sentence a controversial newspaper editor to a year in prison for criticizing Mubarak, and three journalists went on trial [JURIST report] for allegedly slandering a local election commission chief by alleging fraud in parliamentary elections. In 2006, the Egyptian parliament considered a new press law that including a provision allowing journalists to be imprisoned for reporting on alleged financial impropriety by public officials, but dropped that provision [JURIST report] before the law was passed.