Amnesty International: Egypt continues pattern of media harassment

Amnesty International criticized Egypt on Thursday for sentencing a journalist to six months in jail for reporting on the president's alleged health problems, saying the verdict continued a pattern of media harassment by the Egyptian government. The London-based rights group's criticism came a day after an Egyptian court sentenced Ibrahim Eissa for coverage it said caused panic among foreign investors and threatened Egypt's economy. Eissa is the editor of the Al-Dustour daily and one of the most outspoken critics of 79-year-old President Hosni Mubarak and his heavy-handed government. Judge Sherif Mustafa said Wednesday that Eissa published information about Mubarak's health that he knew was fabricated, causing investors to withdraw their money from the country, the stock market to collapse and the economy to decline by US$350 million. Eissa, who did not appear during the trial, has denounced the verdict as politically motivated, a charge echoed by Amnesty. "This prosecution is part of a wider pattern of Egyptian authorities using criminal defamation and other charges to chill media expression and reporting on issues considered by the authorities as red lines," Amnesty said in a statement.