Third conviction of journalist in military court in less than a month: Reuters journalist Mohamed Sabry given six-month suspended sentence for doing his job

Press Release

10 November 2013

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights condemns the six-month suspended prison sentence handed down to journalist Mohamed Sabry yesterday, 3 November 2013, by the North Sinai Misdemeanor Military Court. Sabry’s sentencing was postponed ten times since his trial ended in January.

Twenty-six-old Sabry, a freelance journalist, was arrested on 4 January 2013 while working on an investigative piece for Reuters on the decree banning private ownership of land in the Sinai border zone after being detained by the Border Guard. He was referred to the North Sinai Military Prosecution for questioning the following day, and the prosecutor’s office referred him to the misdemeanor military court (case no 3/2013) the same day on charges of being present in a military zone from which civilians are barred without a permit from the military authorities and taking photographs of things and places to which the military authorities have banned entry and photographs.

The EIPR rejects the referral of civilians to military tribunals, which do not provide the justice due to citizens in countries seeking to uphold the rule of law. The EIPR reiterates that Mohamed Sabry should not have been prosecuted at all in connection with a job-related incident where there was no suspicion that any crime had been committed.

Sabry’s conviction marks the third conviction of a journalist on charges related to their work in less than a month. On 5 October, a military court convicted Ahmed Abu Deraa, a correspondent for al-Masry al-Yom and ONTV in Arish, giving him a six-month suspended prison sentence and fining him LE200 on charges of publishing inaccurate news about military operations in Sinai. On 29 October, the North Cairo Military Court sentenced Hatem Abu al-Nour, a journalist with the daily al-Watan, to one year of hard prison on charges of impersonating a member of the military in order to obtain information.