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A Real Setback - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The first session of the trial of Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Eissa, who stands accused of publishing false news concerning the health of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was held recently. The issue has caused, and continues to be the source of much controversy to this day.

It isn’t the first time that a journalist in Egypt has been pursued, but this issue has taken on wider dimensions [than any other case].

At the opening hearing of Ibrahim Eissa’s trial, Al Galaa square transformed into something of a battleground where three thousand policemen were deployed in an unprecedented atmosphere. Furthermore, many lawyers and others in solidarity with Eissa were prevented from attending [the hearing].

What is noticeable is that Eissa will be brought to justice for nine different cases. Apart from the charge of publishing false news about the president’s health for which he stands accused, there are another eight cases filed by lawyers who are members of- or close to- the National Democratic Party, including the famous lawyer Nabih al Wahsh, who is active in controversial media-related issues, the latest of which was the case of media figure Hala Sarhan and the interviews with prostitutes.

Only last month four editors and two journalists were trialed and sentenced, some of who were ordered to serve one year imprisonment.

In addition, last month, Egyptian courts witnessed deliberations with respect to attempts made by some ministers and governmental bodies to block more than 51 human rights, news and blog websites.

In fact, it is a reality that increases concern for freedom of expression.

Strikingly, in recent months, the Egyptian press and judiciary have triumphed in a significant issue, that is, torture that is taking place in prisons. Egyptian journalists, particularly bloggers, along with the Egyptian judiciary were successful in revealing cases of torture and taking legal action against those embroiled in them.

Prior to that, the independent Egyptian press has gained important achievements in monitoring the elections and approaching the future of governance in Egypt.

The Egyptian press has made significant progress of late regarding its freedom, unrivaled by any other Arab country, as this press has begun to tackle taboo subjects.

There is a setback that is taking place today.

Four journalists have been sentenced to a full year imprisonment whilst another is being pursued with nine cases, which are described by some independents as a case of “one-upmanship” at the hands of sycophants who are seeking fame and approval from the state.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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