Sunday, April 16, 2006

"From a journalist to a fugitive"

Ok, this story is just bizarre. Beginning from the typos to the arbitrariness and lack of logic in the story itself, the article serves as a natural and alarming reflection of a chaotic something. Here it is from the Egyptian Gazette:

Amr Emam
Gazette staff
Apr 16, 2006

Egyptian Journalist Ayat el-Sherbini, 24, knows what a sudden and unpleasant change in fortune is all about. In el-Sherbini's case, the ghastly process took five months.

Fearing arrest, she granted The Gazette an interview by phone.

Hers is another case in the sorry tale of journalists and the law.

There was a time when her family took pride in seeing her by-line regularly.

Now her relatives read about her in the crime page.

"Life for me has taken a bizarre turn," said el-Sherbini in a voice charged with emotion.

"I never thought I would see the day I would be caged with common criminals."

El-Sherbini's problem began on November 24, last year, when she was standing at the local prosecutor's office.

She had been summoned for questioning on an article about an official from the Ministry of Culture. The official had seen the article by el-Sherbini, who was an intern at the daily newspaper Rose el-Youssef, abusing.

He filed an official complaint.

"I wasn't the first journalist to write about this official," said el-Sherbini, speaking from a secret location outside Cairo.

Her mistake might have been that she had obtained the news about the official in question from another newspaper, rewrote it and put her name to it.

On April 8, el-Sherbini was found guilty in absentia of libel. she was ordered to pay a LE 20,000 fine or go to prison.

"My father had a heart attack when he heard the verdict," she said.

"I do not know which way to turn. This is an astronomical sum of money."

Worse, el-Sherbini's case has been referred to a civil court since the Culture Ministry official is claiming damages, which might be as much as LE 200,000.

"I shall have to sell my furniture to pay the fine, but where will I find the money for the compensation? Of course I would prefer to go to prison."

Egypt's pressmen shudder at this idea.

The long awaited legislation banning custodial sentences for journalists in publishing offences might substitute huge fines for jail time.

Prison the easier option? Back to square one?

El-Sherbini went on: "On hearing about the ruling, I was petrified. Every time the doorbell rang, I thought it would be the police coming to take me away.

"My life took on a surreal quality."

El-Sherbini said her decision to leave Cairo was taken only after the police knocked on her door.

"Although I am far away from danger, I feel as if I am being watched everywhere I go. Whenever anybody looks at me, I think they recognize me. I hurry away and hide.

El-Sherbini's lawyer is, she said, trying to reach an out-of-court settlement with the official.

If his efforts fail, she says the consequences will be disastrous.

"If [the official] refuses a settlement, I will be faced with either paying the fine or going to prison," she said.

"If I'm taken to jail, my life will be destroyed. I have already lost my job. No man will agree to marry a girl with a criminal record."


forsoothsayer said...

I would put an enormous amount of money on this Amr Emam being an AUC journalism graduate. I remember being a copy editor on the AUC newspaper where all journalism students must work for a semester, and being pained to the core at the bad writing I saw there. It would take me an hour to bring a standard length article to any semblance of coherence aslan. And they all take such pride in their work! 7aga sa3ba.

Seneferu said...

Bas you would think it is not so hard for a publication such as this to hire a decent editor. We would think wrong I guess. Anyway the story itself is much more sad than the editing.

Seneferu said...

For example I couldn't believe that after all the absurdity that is happening in the story, what the girl finally worries about is that "no man will agree to marry a girl with a criminal record."