Egypt’s proposed media law spooks journalists
Al Monitor, June 20, 2018
journalists are speaking out against a vast press and media bill, warning it
grants wide powers to the government and places potentially heavy restrictions
Abd El Ghany. A general view of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, June 12,
The Egyptian House of Representatives approved a press and
media bill June 10 and sent it to the State Council for review. The
bill contains three separate draft laws to regulate the Supreme
Council for the Press and the Media (SCPM), the National
Press Authority (NPA) and the National
parliament members, journalists and others have denounced the draft laws on the
grounds that they grant wide powers to the government’s SCPM and NPA and allow
the blocking of personal accounts on social networking sites. On June 12,
members of the parliament’s 25-30
Alliance denounced Egypt’s media and press regulations and said that
Articles 5, 10, 19 and 29 of the SCPM draft law contain vague language that
could be interpreted in a way that violates both freedom of the press and the
11, four council members of the Egyptian
Journalists Syndicate issued a statement declaring their rejection
of the draft laws. They said that the bills are a reflection of the will of
some parties to control the national and private press. According to Articles
15 and 35 of the NPA draft law, the authority would directly manage Egypt’s
press institutions and control the boards of directors and public assemblies of
national newspapers, thus preventing institutions such as Al-Ahram and
Al-Gomhuria from making any important decisions without the NPA’s preapproval.
syndicate members said that Articles 4 and 5 of the SCPM draft law subvert press
freedoms through vague wording concerning the distribution of hatred,
incitement, threat to democracy and pornographic material, among other
violations. Article 19 gives the SCPM the right to monitor and block personal
social networking accounts that have more than 5,000 followers.
al-Balashi, a member of the Journalists Syndicate, wrote in a June 9 Facebook
post that Article 19 of the SCPM draft law aims to muzzle
journalists through the wide powers it grants to the SCPM.
Abdel Aziz, the office manager of Asharq
Al-Awsat newspaper, told Al-Monitor that the draft law does have one
positive aspect: filling the legislative vacuum surrounding the regulation of
the press and the media since the passing of the press regulation law in 1996.
But he also said there are concerns over the freedom of opinion and expression,
as Article 19 of the SCPM draft law allows for the closure of personal social
media accounts, blogs and websites and imposes penalties for publishing certain
vaguely defined content at the SCPM’s discretion.
NPA head Karam Gaber denied claims that the NPA would control press
institutions. He told Al-Monitor that under the draft law, the boards of
directors of these bodies would control the institutions’ actions and
decisions. Six of these boards’ 12 members would be elected while the other six
would be appointed by the chairman. His association, he added, would not
interfere in such choices, as its role is merely supervisory.
about claims that the law includes articles that restrict freedoms, Gaber said
that the law forbids the pre-trial detention of journalists in press-related
cases, and he stated that insults and defamation are criminal offenses, be they
committed by press institutions or ordinary individuals. In such cases, he
said, litigation is a constitutional right. Those criticizing the draft law
should read it well before doing so, he added.
stated that the draft law includes many aspects that benefit journalists and
was passed with the aim of reforming and restructuring the press institutions,
establishing administrative processes and regulating wages for journalists. The
draft law also guarantees journalists can demand financial compensation when a
publication folds and requires employment contracts to protect journalists’
Heikal, the head of the parliament’s Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee,
told Al-Monitor that the draft law was issued in a bid to reform the work of
the media and the press, and he added that it contains specific texts and
articles on the freedom of the press and the media. It also specifically
addresses the rights of the public, striking a balance between press and public
freedoms. Heikal explained that Article 71 of the SCPM draft law provides for
the establishment of a system for processing complaints.
the closing of personal accounts on social networks, he said that this only
applies to accounts that have more than 5,000 followers and that publish rumors
and lies. Such accounts, he stated, would be treated as media outlets. He
assured Al-Monitor that the legislation will not affect “personal opinions”
expressed via such accounts.
went on to say that the constitution was respected during the yearlong
preparation of the draft law. He said its articles guarantee the freedom of the
press and the Constitutional Court alone has the authority to rule otherwise.
the parliament’s plenary session held June 10 to discuss the draft law, Ali Abdel Aal, speaker of
the Egyptian House of Representatives, said that he reviewed its
penalties to make sure that they do not breach any international
conventions on press freedom. He concluded that the draft law indeed guarantees
the freedom of expression.