Egypt's Mubarak won't amend controversial libel law

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CAIRO, Nov 9 (Reuters) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not amend a controversial law that allows courts to jail journalists for publishing offences, state media reported today.

Human rights activists and analysts say the government uses the law to jail journalists who criticise Mubarak and his family.

''With regard to publishing crimes like libel and defamation, we cannot amend the law to exempt journalists (from being jailed) because it will be immediately challenged as unconstitutional,'' Mubarak said in an interview with the state-run Al Masaa newspaper published today.

At least 11 journalists and writers have been sentenced to jail terms in Egypt since September for charges ranging from attacking Mubarak and his politician son Gamal to misquoting the minister of justice.

Cairo says its judiciary is independent and not politically influenced. Critics, however, point out that most recent lawsuits against journalists have been filed by members of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

Independent newspapers in Egypt have pushed the boundaries on reporting, which has long been dominated by state media. The government says some criticism goes beyond the legal limit.

REUTERS RKM RAI1722

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