CAIRO: In the latest installment in the ongoing feud between newspaper editors Mostafa Bakri and Yasser Barakat, a court found Barakat guilty in two libel cases raised by Bakri.
Both sentences were handed down by the Giza Criminal Court in separate proceedings on Feb. 2, 2010. In a statement issued Wednesday the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) says that Al-Mougez editor Barakat was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of LE 20,000 after the court found him guilty of libeling Bakri, editor of El-Osboa newspaper, in an article published in 2008.
The second conviction concerns another article also published in October 2008 which landed Barakat with a LE 40,000 fine and a six-month prison sentence.
Bakri has raised a total of 13 libel cases against Barakat. What ANHRI calls the “newspaper war began between them after Barakat published an article in November 2007 titled “Bakri, Syrian intelligence and.Naguib Sawiris.
The Journalists’ Syndicate persuaded Bakri to drop the libel charges he raised against Barakat, but only after the latter had been sentenced to six months in prison and a LE 20,000 fine.
In its statement, ANHRI condemns what it called the “deterioration in journalism and the “heavy imprisonment sentences and fines handed down to journalists in libel cases.
The NGO blames the “incompetence of the Journalists’ Syndicate for the occurrence of such cases, suggesting that the syndicate is not performing its duty of protecting journalists.
The NGO again called for the abolition of custodial sentences for libel convictions and all cases concerning “expression, publishing and printing, adding that the “huge fines handed down in criminal trials remain a sword to journalists’ throats.
President Hosni Mubarak pledged to abolish prison sentences for journalists in 2005.