Essa is widely credited with having played a decisive role in both the editorial integrity of Al Dustour and its circulation success since reappearing on newsstands in 2005 after a seven-year hiatus.
Essa's staff describe him as a team leader and fearless pioneer when it comes to crossing red lines or reporting on sensitive issues. The editor has a reputation of being a staunch press freedom defender.
Al Dustour's tackling of important issues ignored by the state-owned media and also by other opposition papers have brought it closer to ordinary readers, but has also made the publication one of the top enemies of the state. Al Dustour is one of the few publications in the region with a full page dedicated to media and press freedom issues.
Essa stated that the years of hardship that his newspaper went through only added to his perseverance to pursue "the goals and aspirations upon which we were established". His determination to continue with professional and quality of coverage of events resulted in number of indictments and court cases, most of them filed by members of the ruling National Democratic Party.
In September 2008, Essa was sentenced to two months in prison by the Boulaque misdemeanours appeal court for "propagating false news and rumours causing a general security disturbance and harming the public interest" in connection with articles concerning the health of President Mubarak published in August 2007. Essa had been indicted by the High State Security Prosecutor's Office in September 2007.
On 6 October 2008, Mubarak pardoned Issa.
The presidential pardon came at a time when Essa and three other editors-in-chief are facing one year of imprisonment in a separate case. In September 2007, Ibrahim Essa, along with Adel Hammouda of the weekly al-Fagr, Wael al-Abrashi of the weekly Soat al-Ommah, and Abdel Halim Kandeel, former editor of the weekly Al- Karama, each received a one-year jail sentence for "defaming the president" as well as a fine of 20,000 Egyptian Pounds (2,800 EUR). They appealed their convictions and have been free on bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
In June 2006, Essa and Al-Dustour journalist Sahar Zaki were each sentenced to one year in prison by a court in the village of Al-Warrack, near Cairo, for "insulting the President" and "spreading false or tendentious rumours." They were charged after they reported in April 2005 on a legal case against President Mubarak. The article in question reported on a lawsuit brought by a man from Al-Warrack who accused President Mubarak of unconstitutional conduct and 'wasting foreign aid' during the privatisation of state-owned companies. The prison sentence was dismissed by an appeal court in February 2007 and Essa and Zaki were sentenced to a fine of 22,500 Egyptian Pounds (3,200 EUR).
Al Dustour was first published between 1995 and 1998, when authorities banned the weekly from publishing following a letter from the militant group Gamaa Islamiya that appeared in the newspaper. Essa tried to register a new newspaper a total of nine times in subsequent years, however until 2005, this request was always denied.
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