The Egyptian government restricts freedom of expression

June 30th, 2013 by Editor

And threats to shut down the satellite channels

EOHR expresses its deep concern about the letter, which was addressed to the satellite channels. The closure of satellite channels is a serious violation of the freedoms of opinion and expression and the right to information.

The Board of the Media Free Zone addressed a letter to all channels without exception and to Nilesat about the necessity to respect the regulations and principles of the Arab Media Charter of Honor, as well as laws and justice decisions relating to the work organization of these channels. The letter also called all the channels to implement the requirement of Article 88 of the Regulations of the Law on Investment Guarantees and Incentives.

In this context, Mr. Hafez Abu Seada, the head of EOHR, affirmed that addressing this letter to the satellite channels after the closure of El Faraayn channel and the cut of its signal shows a trend by the Egyptian authorities to suppress freedoms; it is an assault against the freedoms of opinion and expression. It is the return of the old practices with the closure of a satellite channel by a simple governmental decision without any judicial support.

EOHR had previously criticized the Arab Media Charter of Honor which includes the following clauses:

1-      Article 4 in its fifth paragraph affirms the commitment of broadcasters, satellite service providers and re-broadcast satellite to “not negatively affect social peace, national unity, public order and public morality”.

2-      Article 5 states that broadcasters, satellite service providers and re-broadcast satellite have to apply the following standards and controls: the obligation to respect freedom of expression as a basic foundation of the pillars of the Arab media, however the exercise of this freedom calls for awareness and responsibility in order to protect the higher interests of the Arab countries and the Arab world, etc.

The way by which most of the Arab Ministers of Information and Ministers of Interior issue the protection of the supreme interests is no longer a secret.

3-      The second paragraph of article 5 affirms “the obligation to respect the principle of national sovereignty of each state on its territory, providing to each of the States members of the League of Arab States the right to impose, if it deems necessary, more detailed laws and regulations”; and in the third paragraph “the commitment to the jurisdiction principle of the state” and to “its right to impose regulations”. These regulations are not the product of a consensus, but simply orders from the authorities.

4-      Article 7, paragraph 3, states that the channels have to “abstain from broadcasting anything incompatible with the orientations of the Arab solidarity” and the fourth paragraph affirms “the commitment to objectivity, honesty and respect for the dignity of nations and peoples, the national sovereignty and not to defame its leaders or national and religious symbols”. What remains of media freedom when a strong link is established between objectivity and honesty and the fact to not criticize or offend national or religious leaders? As appears from the foregoing, the Charter contains five types of precautionary measures to stifle media freedoms: (a) the general rules, standards and general controls, (b) commitments, (c) standards, regulations and requirements, (d) commitments to the principles and frameworks. There is no doubt that these measures aim to force the Arab satellite channels to implement principles incompatible with the principles of open media and the acquired freedoms. This does not represent brakes in front of the progress that has been made in this field, but it obliges us to return before the global information revolution and the Arab satellites.

5-      Punitive measures such as: confiscation of equipment, fines, cancellation of licenses.

EOHR affirms that addressing this letter is contrary to the Egyptian Constitution. Its article 45 guarantees the freedom of thought and opinion; and recognized to each individual the right to express his opinion orally, in writing, through photography or any other means of publication and expression. Its article 48 also guarantees the freedom of press, printing and publishing as well as other media. With freedom and independence, the media mission is to serve the community allowing the expression of public opinion and contributing in the building of the state and the society. Its mission is also to maintain the rights, freedoms, public duties, inviolability of private life and the requirements of national security. The suspension, closure or confiscation is prohibited except by judicial decision, as well as any control over the media publications. An exception can be imposed through specific censorship in time of war or public mobilizations.

EOHR calls the Egyptian government for respecting its commitments issued from the international conventions concerning human rights, which after ratification became a full-fledged part of the Egyptian legislation. These international commitments include the freedoms of opinion and expression and the freedom of information. It also prohibits the closure of a satellite channel without a judicial decision.  

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 30th, 2013 at 3:02 pm and is filed under Statements. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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