CAIRO: The Sayeda Zeinab Misdemeanors Court sentenced the editor-in-chief of tabloid Al-Balagh Al-Gadid, Abdou El Maghraby, and editor Ehab El Agamy for one year in prison and a LE 40,000 fine for libel and defamation in a report about an alleged homosexual prostitution ring involving three Egyptian actors.
Al-Balagh Al-Gadid was banned last October after it claimed that police had uncovered a homosexual prostitution network in a raid of a five-star hotel in Cairo. The report claimed that the actors bribed police officers and hotel management to hush up the incident.
The actors denied the claim and filed lawsuits against the editor and the reporter who wrote the story.
The court also ruled that the journalists pay a fine of LE 40,000 to each of the three actors, Nour El-Sherif, Khaled Aboul Naga and Hamdy El-Wazeer, as well as to the hotel.
The court also referred El-Sherif’s LE 10 million compensation claim to a specialized civil court.
Rights activists had slammed the decision to ban the newspaper for publishing the story, merely because it involved high profile Egyptian actors, arguing that it was in the public interest.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) objected to enforcing the ban while the investigations on the issue were still ongoing. “The decision is considered a clear violation of freedom of opinion and expression and the right to exchange information, said EOHR in a statement at the time.
While the organization said it recognizes the detrimental effects of rumors and false news and condemns all forms of defamation, it maintains that this decision is unconstitutional.
However, Galal Dweidar, secretary-general of the Higher Press Council, affiliated to the Upper House of Parliament, said that their decision was not triggered by this “scandal.
“There are many complaints about this newspaper; it has been accused of publishing incorrect information, libel and defamation . it’s not only about this case but there are around 10 to 12 lawsuits against this newspaper, he said.
According to Dweidar, Al-Balagh is considered a foreign newspaper because it carries an off-shore license, which makes it bound by the foreign publications law. The decision to ban it came after a committee meeting attended by representatives from a number of parties, including the Ministry of Information.