2 journalists investigated over “false news” in Port Said massacre case

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Prosecutor-general Nabil Sadek summoned two journalists for investigations on accusations of publishing false news, according to Mahmoud Kamel, member of the Press Syndicate’s council following up on journalists’ legal affairs.

“Our colleagues Ramadan Ahmed from Rose Al-Youssef newspaper and Khaled Ammar from Al-Wafd will have an interrogation session on Wednesday, as they are accused of publishing false news regarding the Port Said massacre case,” Kamel posted on his Facebook account on Saturday evening.

Ammar was previously detained among dozens of journalists detained while covering the Red Sea islands protests in April 2016. For its part, Rose Al-Youssef announced in a story published on their website Saturday solidarity with Ahmed and that the newspaper’s legal representatives will attend the session with him.

The problematic content is believed to be related to a statement made last week by a lawyer working on the Port Said massacre case, who claimed that his client’s death penalty was revoked. The lawyer himself was also summoned for investigations.

On 20 February, the Cassation Court upheld death sentences that had previously been handed to 10 defendants in the Port Said stadium massacre case of 2012, which lead to the death of 74 football fans.

Lawyer Anas Sayed said in a Facebook post on 2 March that he “never said that the penalty was halted,” but rather that “new investigations will be opened with regards to new evidence provided in the case.”

While Sayed had explained that his plea to revoke the verdict was accepted, some news outlets reported that the verdict was annulled. Then they published a statement by the prosecutor-general announcing that the lawyer would be investigated on charges of spreading false information that could be damaging to the state’s high interests and judiciary.

Regardless of the fact that Al-Wafd and Rose Al-Youssef were not the only ones to publish Sayed’s statements, their summoning comes amid a week of increased targeting of journalists over content-related issues.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Omar, deputy editor-in-chief of Al-Messa newspaper, is under investigation after former education minister El-Helaly El-Sherbiny filed a report against him accusing him of defamation, after the latter published a report on corruption incidents inside the ministry.

This also comes as tensions between journalists and the parliament increased as the latter made aggressive statements against the press and media, ending up with the interrogation of the renowned editor-in-chief of Al-Maqal newspaper, Ibrahim Eissa, on accusations of offending the parliament. The newspaper had published a headline describing its performance like “a cartoon movie that deserves the Oscars award.”

The Press Syndicate is scheduled on Friday to elect a new president and six members of the council. All candidates have stressed upon the need to abolish prison sentences against journalists in publishing crimes.

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