Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Convicted over false news 

Three TV personalities have been sentenced to six months in jail for providing false news, reports Ahmed Morsy

Magdi Al-Galad
Magdi Al-Galad
Al-Ahram Weekly

A Cairo misdemeanour court handed TV host and editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Al-Watan daily Magdi Al-Galad, CBC satellite channel owner Mohamed Al-Amin and segment producer Wael Saad a six-month jail sentence and a LE10,000 fine each after broadcasting false news. The three were arrested and the verdict can be appealed.  
The case was originally brought by the head of Finance Violations at the Central Auditing Agency Fathi Ibrahim when he accused the three staffers of the Lazem Nefham (We Must Know) talk show of publishing incorrect reports and disclosing the agency’s secrets over an episode involving reports about the squandering of public funds.
The incident is not the first of its kind. Last month, Al-Youm Al-Sabei Editor-in-Chief Khaled Salah and another reporter were charged with publishing false news in addition to inciting fear and threatening public security. After being summoned following a complaint filed against the two journalists by the Interior Ministry, they were released on bail later the same day.
Ibrahim Aref, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Al-Bayan newspaper, and a reporter were recently prosecuted on charges of publishing false information regarding the assassination of three prosecutors, though the newspaper had apologised for the news and printed a correction.
Chairman of the Press Syndicate Yehia Qallash told Al-Ahram Weekly that journalists are not supposed to be detained for publication offences in the first place because that contradicts with the constitution. 
According to the Egyptian constitution, no press violation is punishable by custodial penalties.
“Journalists demand that the president of the country issue a clear statement regarding the crackdown on press freedom, manifested by officials and state institutions violating their right to free speech and access to information,” Qallash said.
“We have officially filed two complaints to the public prosecution regarding arresting journalists without prior notice to the syndicate. In addition, we called for cancelling the payment of bail to release summoned journalists since they cannot be jailed for publication offences.” Qallash added that the syndicate had yet to receive a response to either complaint.
According to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, 44 reporters were arrested in 2014. On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, Amnesty International said that at least 18 journalists and media workers remain in detention in Egypt. The London-based rights group said that the “pattern of arrests, charges and prosecution of journalists suggests that they are aimed at silencing the government’s political opponents and critics”.
Official institutions have every right to respond to any report and to legally question the accuracy of what was published without any unjustified procedures that violate press freedom, Qallash said.
In 2013, Al-Galad was tried over the same accusations after his newspaper published a report in October 2012 claiming that the then-ruling Muslim Brotherhood had drawn up a hit list of 100 Egyptian figures.
The Press Syndicate announced on Monday that the draft anti-terrorism law approved by Egypt’s cabinet last week includes “dangerous articles” which threaten media and press freedoms.
The draft anti-terrorism legislation imposes a minimum two-year sentence as punishment for “reporting false information on terrorist attacks which contradict official statements”. Though the syndicate stressed that it stands by the Armed Forces in its fight against “terrorist attacks”, it stated that the draft law includes loosely defined articles that undermines press freedoms and enables authorities to censor journalists.
The law was approved by the cabinet last week after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi pledged tougher legal measures to combat terrorism following the assassination of former prosecutor general Hisham Barakat in a Cairo car bomb attack.

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