CAIRO: No charges were leveled against independent daily Al-Shorouk for publishing news about ousted president Hosni Mubarak possibly seeking amnesty.
Egypt’s Military Prosecution on Thursday released the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Amr Khafagy and the two reporters who wrote the story after speaking to them for 30 minutes.
The three were summoned Wednesday, a day after publishing an article quoting anonymous sources as saying that Mubarak was preparing a speech to be broadcast on Egyptian and Arab channels, in which he will seek amnesty from the army council after relinquishing his assets as well as apologize on behalf of himself and his family for any offence caused to the Egyptian people.
“We were not asked any questions. We were just informed of Article 85 [of the penal code] that bans publishing news on the military unless acquired through the [army’s] Morale Affairs Department,” Khafagy told Daily News Egypt.
According to Article 85, a defense secret is defined as any information or news that has to do with the armed forces’ distributions, formations, munitions, movements, supplies and members.
The law also generally criminalizes the circulation of news related to military affairs and strategies unless there is written consent for publishing or broadcasting the information.
“We did not publish that the armed forces was part of the issue,” Khafagy argued.
In an editorial published Thursday titled “The homeland’s priorities and those of journalism,” the paper said the public speculations triggered by the article did not reflect the actual published text.
“The newspaper said it took a lot of time and effort to verify the information and follow a lead of a story that started and is not over yet, within a framework of freedom of press that Al-Shorouk thinks is part of the achievements of the January 25 Revolution,” the editorial read.
“The issue is over [for now] and we will resume publishing [about it] when things calm down,” Khafagy said.
An unnamed military was quoted by Al-Shorouk as saying that several parties, Egyptian and Arab, have been mediating to reach a settlement for Mubarak within an acceptable legal framework.
Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, after an 18-day nationwide uprising demanding his ouster, and handed authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
The source further said that the possibility of imprisoning Mubarak was unpopular within the military community since he is a former high-ranking army officer. Yet he added that the army wanted to avoid provoking the Egyptian people.
On its part, SCAF said Wednesday in communiqué 54, published on its official Facebook page, that it was not responsible of any news released by the media or attributed to the council members unless it is based on official statements.
The SCAF warned against what it described as “malicious rumors” intended to create a rift between the people and the military.
The military council called on media to stop involving it or any of its members in these circulated reports at such a critical phase in the country’s history.
Khafagy, meanwhile, declined to mention any hints about the identities of the sources cited in the controversial story.
The issue has raised professional concerns over whether it was the right decision to publish the news as opposed to holding it to avoid public disturbance.
“The issue is politically and professionally convoluted as people usually consider the reporter who delivers the news as its creator, blaming the newspaper,” Journalists’ Syndicate member Gamal Fahmy told DNE.
“The problem was raised because the story tackled an intention not something that has already happened, which raises questions over proving it,” he added.
The unconfirmed news stirred angry reactions among activists and political forces, who called for holding mass protests in Tahrir and other parts of Egypt dubbed the “Friday of Rejecting Apology and Manipulating the Revolution,” declining any excuse on Mubarak’s part as well as the release of his wife without bail.
They further vowed to hold demonstrations on Friday May 27 under the slogan “The Second Egyptian Rage Revolution” if their demands of enforcing the law against the Mubarak family and former officials with no exceptions are not met.
Mubarak, currently remanded in custody at the Sharm El-Sheikh International Hospital, has been accused of several corruption-related charges as well as being involved in the killing of protesters during the first days of the January 25 Revolution.
Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who face similar accusations, are currently remanded in custody at Cairo’s Tora prison pending further investigation.