Al-Jazeera producer sentenced in absentia to six months in prison.

An Egyptian producer employed by the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al-Jazeera, Howayda Taha, was sentenced in absentia yesterday, the eve of World Press Freedom Day, to six months in prison for preparing a report on torture in Egyptian prisons. She was found guilty of “harming national interest.”
“We are outraged by this conviction, which confirms the fears we have repeatedly voiced since the start of the year,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Egypt has taken a dangerous road. The media and the Internet are now both under surveillance and are being censored with increasing openness. The authorities targeted Taha because she wanted to tackle a difficult but important issue, human rights violations in Egyptian prisons.”
Taha was convicted by a state security court, which also fined her 20,000 Egyptian pounds (3,500 euros and set bail at 10,000 Egyptian pounds (1,750 euros). She now lives in Qatar and would have to return to Egypt to file an appeal.
“This is an unfair and vindictive decision by the judicial institutions, because these institutions are not free in my country,” Taha said.
Taha was stopped at Cairo airport on 8 January as she was about to fly to Qatar. The police seized videotapes found in her baggage that contained re-enacted scenes of torture based on the accounts of victims. She was formally charged on 13 January but was allowed to leave the country.

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