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Freedom House Calls for Release of Two Journalists in Egypt
The prison sentences handed down to two Egyptian journalists for allegedly invading the privacy of a religious leader who charged money for religious guidance is a violation of freedom of expression and casts a pall over Egypt’s transition to democracy.
Fatima Al-Zahra and Sally Hasan were arrested and charged with libel, slander and privacy violations for a story they wrote in Al-Fajr about Sheikh Yusuf Al-Badri in 2009 after attending a spiritual session at his house in exchange for 350 Egyptian pounds (about $57). Al-Badri sued the writers claiming they “invaded his privacy." Al-Zahra was sentenced to one month in prison and Hasan to two months in prison, and most concerning, both have been prohibited from writing for the next three years. Their sentencing is an indication of the continuing threat journalists in Egypt face and the struggle to consolidate democratic gains.
Over the past several months, independent media in Egypt have come under increasing pressure to curb content, and journalists, bloggers and critics of the military have been arrested or faced restrictions on publications. Egyptians still suffer under an emergency law, restricting freedom of assembly, and allowing arrests and detention without charge.