The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) expressed its “amazement” regarding the “lack of accommodation by the judges to receive criticism” after the referral of former editor-in-chief of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Magdy Al-Galad, Councellor Hesham Genena, and Editor Mohamed Al-Sanhoury to the Criminal Court on Monday
The individuals are being sued by Judges’ Club chair Ahmed El-Zend, who pressed charges citing “public defamation of the judiciary through publication.”
ANHRI responded in a statement, “Instead of opposing trials against freedom of expression and publishing rights, we now have a number of judges aiming to prosecute journalists after an interview of an individual whose role is to combat corruption.”
“The judges should have responded to the interview through using their right of reply and applying freedom of expression rather than trying to use criminal trials to silence critics” the statement added.
The human rights organisation stressed its condemnation of the continued criminal prosecutions of journalists, and stressed the need to consider cases before a competent court or through their union “because it is unacceptable to try a journalist or a writer for publishing an article within a criminal court, which specialises in viewing issues of murder, drugs and other crimes.”
The incident dates back to 16 January, 2012, where Councilor Genena published a newspaper interview in which he said that the “Judge’s Club election is a farce,” accusing Al-Zend “of distorting the image of the independent judges movement”.
Genena had served as the previous chairman of the Court of Appeals and was appointed by ousted President Mohamed Morsi as head of the Central Auditing Organisation on 17 September 2012 for four years.
Investigations alleged that Genena defamed the president of the Judges Club and the club’s integrity during the interview before the investigative judge ordered their referral to the Urgent Matters Criminal Court where they will face trial.
Al-Galad had served as the previous editor-in-chief of newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm before starting his own newspaper, Al-Watan.
According to state-run news agency MENA, the referral order said that “Al-Galad is being tried for failing to perform the duty imposed by law, which stipulates that the editor should oversee the interview”, adding that he would be referred to trial for “not following proper protocol of editing phrases that constitute a violation of the law.”