Cairo: 9 March, 2017
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) welcomed today, the ruling of Kafr El Sheikh Criminal Court to reverse the two year prison sentence against Al-Wafd newspaper journalists, for allegedly insulting a public official in Kafr El-Sheikh municipality. The decision stated that the lawsuit filed by the secretary-general of Kafr El Sheikh against journalists “Ashraf Fathi el-Hadad” and “Mustafa Maa’rouf Ibrahim” against the backdrop of publishing an investigation in Al-Wafd regarding suspicions of corruption in Kafr el-Sheikh Municipality is not eligible for review by the court, because it was filed following a path other than the one stipulated by the law.
On December 8, 2015, the court sentenced the aforementioned journalists in absentia to two years in prison and a fine of ten thousand EGP each plus the criminal expenses, after they were referred by the public prosecutor to the court on charges of insulting a public official for carrying out his job by way of publishing.
The incidents date back to August 27, 2013, after the journalists published an investigative report in Al-Wafd newspaper about suspicions of corruption in the corridors of Kafr El Sheikh municipality, following that, the general secretary of the municipality filed a lawsuit against the journalists, accusing them of insult and libel against him being a public servant, then the public prosecutor questioned them and referred them to the Criminal Court, which in turn handed them down a two-year prison sentence.
ANHRI’s lawyers applied for a re-trial, arguing that the lawsuit was filed following a path other than the one stipulated by the law, and that the first degree judgment did not take this into account, also that the right to criticize should be granted to journalists in matters of public interest, yesterday the Court ruled to reverse the conviction of the court of first instance.
ANHRI welcomes this decision, and emphasizes the importance of guaranteeing the right to criticize as a fundamental pillar of press freedom and the journalists’ right to freedom to disseminate news, as well as their right to express an opinion on matters of public interest. Moreover, if the state apparatus was really serious in its fight against corruption, it should address the corrupt rather than prosecute the journalists who shed the spotlight on corruption.