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Egyptian journalists fined by court over ban on Suzanne Tamim murder case coverage

Relatives of murdered Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim carry her coffin during her funeral in Beirut in this August 4, 2008 file photo. Hesham Talaat Moustafa, a billionaire businessman and parliamentarian from Egypt's ruling party, has been charged with paying a man $2 million to kill Tamim in Dubai, the prosecution said on September 2, 2008.Photo: Reuters

The Egyptian judiciary has imposed a fine on five journalists for violating a ban on media coverage of a murder trial involving an influential businessman who is a member of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has reported.

In a hearing attended by CPJ Thursday, the Sayyida Zainab Misdemeanors Court sentenced Magdi al-Galad, Yusri al-Badri, and Faruq al-Dissuqi, respectively the editor and reporters of the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm; Abbas al-Tarabili, editor of the opposition daily Al-Wafd, and reporter Ibrahim Qaraa to a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,803) each.

They were found guilty of violating a November 2008 court decision banning media coverage of the trial of Hisham Talaat Mustafa, a billionaire businessman charged of killing his reputed mistress, Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tamim.

"We are dismayed by this latest politically motivated court ruling and call on the Egyptian judiciary to overturn it on appeal," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle ‎East and North Africa programme coordinator. "We also urge President Mubarak to end the rising attacks on independent and opposition papers and to bring Egyptian legislation in line with international standards for freedom of expression, as he has repeatedly pledged to do."

Sayyid Abu Zaid, lawyer for the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate told CPJ, that a similar case filed against the state-owned dailies Al-Ahram and Akhbar Al-Yawm for violating the ban on media coverage of the Mustafa case was dropped by prosecutors last November.

One of them, Essam Sultan, recently told Egypt's English-language Daily News that the decision to pursue Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Wafd but not the state-owned papers "indicates a double standard."

"This ruling is shocking," said Abu Zaid. "It deals a harsh blow to journalists' right to gather information and to cover cases of public interest." He described the ruling as a "dangerous precedent" and a "prescription for more blackouts on corruption cases involving influential figures and businessmen" that are close to Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party. Abu Zaid said he was consulting with the five journalists to appeal what he and other lawyers called an unconstitutional ruling.

The trial of Mustafa and Muhsin al-Sukkari, a former state security officer who is charged with having been paid by Mustafa to murder the pop singer last July in Dubai, resumed in mid-February in Cairo, amid tight security measures. Mustafa, who was recently stripped of his parliamentary immunity in order to face trial, was until his arrest a construction mogul and one of the leading members of the ruling party's highly influential Policies Committee chaired by Gamal Mubarak, the president's son and heir apparent.

Date posted: February 28, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 1275