Egyptian newspapers did not appear on the stands last week as a part of a national protest against the imprisoning of editors for “slandering the president”.
A strike by 22 national dailies, the first of its kind for decades, came after the editors in chief of several major newspapers were handed one and two year prison sentences for insulting president Hosni Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
The jail sentences show that the promise made by Mubarak to halt imprisonment in publication cases as part of his “democratisation plan” is a lie.
The US has held up the Egyptian regime as a model to other countries in the region.
The newspaper editors were hauled in front of the court after they published articles raising questions about Mubarak’s health. The prosecution alleged that by “spreading false rumours” the editors had caused some foreign investors to withdraw their money from the country.
The editor of the leading opposition newspaper Al-Doustour, Ibrahim Eissa, was charged after he wrote in an editorial, “The president in Egypt is a god and the gods don’t get sick. Mubarak’s state wants to present the president as someone who is sanctified, who makes no mistakes and who no one questions and no one competes against.”
Eissa has already been convicted for saying that Gamal Mubarak, the dictator’s son and heir, is not fit to rule the country.
Another editor was charged with allegedly “misquoting a health official”. Some journalists have had private actions brought against them for exposing the prosecution lawyers as being members of the NDP.
Adel Hammouda, the editor of Al-Fagr, was convicted for exposing corruption in the ruling circles and Abdel Halim Qandil of the weekly al-Karama was convicted of insulting the president.
As the judge handed down the jail sentences he declared, “The accused have used their pens to attack and to spread lies, taking advantage of their positions as journalists. The expressions included abusive language, and were not meant to promote the public good, but to humiliate and disparage NDP leaders.”
The Egyptian regime is lashing out at the opposition newspapers following a wave of strikes and riots across the country.
Last December 27,000 workers at the largest textile mill kicked off a wave of strikes that spread across the country in what has become known as Egypt’s “winter of discontent”.
The party will be holding a conference to confirm Gamal Mubarak will succeed his father.
Organisers of the fourth Cairo Conference are calling for delegates to attend next year’s conference in the Egyptain capital.
They appealed for delegates of “political and popular movements, as well as individual fighters for freedom, democracy and social justice, in Egypt, the Arab countries and the world at large, who stand against imperialism, Zionism and exploitative globalisation, to contribute to the activities of the conference and forum.”
The next conference will take place in the Egyptian capital between 27-30 March 2008.
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