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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
Egypt MPs amend press libel law
Journalists' protest
An ironic comment on the publishing amendment's intention
Egyptian MPs have passed controversial new publishing laws, after President Hosni Mubarak had some clauses allowing journalists to be jailed removed.

The changes failed to dampen opposition among press freedom groups, who say the government intends to silence critics.

Mr Mubarak pledged two years ago to end custodial sentences for the media but has failed to act on his promise.

The amendment allows increased fines for those making defamatory corruption allegations against officials.

Prison sentences for serious media crimes - such as libelling the president and foreign heads of state - remain.

And imprisonment for libel is left to judges' discretion rather than being banned altogether.

Before Mr Mubarak's intervention, 25 independent newspapers protested against the legislation by not printing editions on Sunday.

Investigations

Correspondents say Egypt has witnessed the growth of lively opposition newspapers in recent years, which are willing to challenge the ruling elite.

But several journalists are currently being investigated or have already been charged with libel for reporting on alleged corruption.

Journalists' syndicate spokesman Ibrahim Mansur said the amendments do not go far enough.

"All prison sentences for journalists must be stricken from the law," he said in remarks quoted by AFP news agency.

Previously the law set sentences of up to two years for journalists convicted of libel.

Minister of Justice Mahmud Abu Leil said the government had taken real steps towards more freedom with the amendment.




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