The independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Wednesday that the editors of seven independent and opposition newspapers would not publish their Sunday edition – or weekly edition for the weekly papers – to protest against the “horrific picture” of the free press in Egypt.
In a news conference on Tuesday at the journalists’ syndicate, the editors of dailies Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al-Alam Al-Youm, Nahdet Masr and weeklies Sawt Al-Ummah, Al-Araby, Al-Fagr and Al-Khamees announced their decision, saying that Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, had failed to fulfill his presidential campaign promises of abolishing jail terms for journalists.
A draft press bill has been passed by the government and is to be discussed in parliament on Sunday.
But the law, which leaves prison sentences to judges’ discretion rather than abolish them, is far from acceptable, say the journalists.
A controversial article states that journalists who discuss the private property or funds of public figures risk imprisonment.
The new law “abolishes the role of the press in exposing crimes of stealing public funds… and protects corruption and offers immunity to the corrupt,” read a statement issued by the journalists syndicate on Tuesday.
The syndicate has called on Egyptians not to buy any newspapers, including state-owned papers, on Sunday, saying they will step up their protest if their demands for reforms are not met.
Last week, the editor and a journalist from the independent Al-Dustour were each given a year in jail for reporting on a complaint accusing Mubarak of misusing government money.
The paper is one of a few independent and opposition newspapers that have campaigned for democratic reform in Egypt and challenged Mubarak’s 25-year rule.
Three other Egyptian journalists appeared before a criminal court last month for denouncing reported state-sponsored fraud during the 2005 parliamentary elections.