Egyptian opposition party al-Wafd said it will contest the ruling that sent the party's mouthpiece and two other journalists to two years in jail.
A court on Monday sentenced Anwar al-Hawari, the editor-in-chief of the opposition's newspaper, and two others to two years in jail for "damaging the image of justice", in the latest case against Egypt's media.
The three remain free on bail pending an appeal, but al-Hawari joins the club of four other editors-in-chief who have been sentenced to jail for publication offences.
Al-Hawari told Al-Arabiya.net that although he fully respects the Egyptian judiciary, he is alarmed at the number of journalists jailed in the past few days.
"It is no secret that Egypt is undergoing a conflict between freedom and despotism," the Wafd party said in a statement issued in the wake of the ruling. "We have lived in a culture of subjugation for years, and that's the result: the country is going downhill."
The statement also called for abolishing laws that stifle freedom of expression.
Essam Sheeha, the paper's attorney and member of the Wafd's Supreme Board, said that the party's legal and legislative committee will convene to prepare a memorandum to contest the ruling.
The paper will also publish a series of articles about the statement issued by the court and which praises freedom of press in Mubarak's time.
Al-Wafd's editor Anwar al-Hawari, Mahmud Ghallab and Amir Othman were jailed for "having published untrue information which damaged the reputation of the justice system and the justice ministry", the court ruled.
The judge accepted the case filed by eleven lawyers from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) after Al-Wafd had in January quoted Justice Minister Mamdouh Mari as saying that 90 percent of Egyptian judges were not up to the job.
Mari said he had been misquoted and the lawyers then claimed the reports had indirectly damaged their image.
"We are not at war, we didn't reveal military secrets. We only did our job as professional journalists," Hawari told AFP after the sentencing, insisting on the accuracy of the quote.
"The state has launched an offensive against press freedom," he charged.
This is not the first time NDP lawyers have pressed charges against journalists.
On September 13, an Egyptian court sentenced four other journalists to one year in jail for "harming the public interest" by publishing articles which the judge said suggested the NDP was dictatorial.
In of the cases, NDP lawyer Hamada Abou-Hatab sued the editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Dostour Ibrahim Eissa. He was sentenced to a year of hard labor and a 10,000 pound fine, but he appealed and the sentence was revoked.
Another lawyer, Ibrahim Abdel-Rasoul, filed a suit against Adel Hamouda, Ibrahim Eissa, and Wael Al-Ibrashi, editors-in-chief of the independent newspapers Al-Fajr, Al-Dostour, and Sawt Al-Umma, respectively, as well as former editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Karama Abdel-Halim Qandil.
One of the four journalists -- Ibrahim Eissa of Al-Destur daily -- faces a separate trial next month for reporting on rumors that 79-year-old President Hosni Mubarak is unwell.
Rights groups have criticized Egypt for imprisoning journalists for what they say is exercising their right to freedom of expression in stories critical of Mubarak and other high officials.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).