First day of the conference on “Freedom of Opinion and Expression in the new Egyptian Media System”: media system to be developed to comply with the new constitution
October 14th, 2014 by Editor
The participants to the first day of the conference on “Freedom of Opinion and Expression in the new Egyptian Media System”, organized by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) in cooperation with the German FoundationFriedrich Naumannat Pyramisa hotel in AlDokki on Tuesday 14 October 2014 agreed on the need to develop the media system to ensure the freedom of opinion and expression.
Mr Yasser Abd ElAziz opened the conference, stressing the importance of the role of the media in the Egyptian politics, as rostrum for the defence of rights and public freedoms. Therefore this conference is an occasion to focus on the importance of the media.
Abd ElAziz added that the conference tries to understand the opinion of the political and media elites on the future of the media and the importance of the role they have been given with the 2014 constitution and especially in the light of the creation of media councils set forth by Articles 211 and 212.
Abd ElAziz also remarked that the situation which media personnel is now living is contradictious, thus we are in a particular moment, since we have three directions for the media system: the first is an open invitation to restrict media; the second calls for a purification of media, characterized of too much corruption, unreliablility, and treason, and it is the only inadequate for the development of the media; thus, the call for establishing a good media system and a basic structure which ensures the freedom of the media.
Hafez Abo Seada, president of the Egyptian Organization, asserted that Egypt saw the revolution of 25 January 2011, which was a revolution against the authoritarianism languished by the authorities for more than thirty years, during which freedom of opinion and expression has been violated through the detention of journalists brought to trials for crimes connected to their opinions, and that of 30 June 2013 based on religious tiranny, deliberately suppressing citizens’ rights and public freedoms. They also tried to eliminate any role of journalism and media in Egypt through systematic campaigns to demonize the image of journalists and media personnel till sieging the Media Production City, so violating the freedom of opinion and expression.
He also added that the present conference is based on the discussion of topics related to the role of the media and the professional standards that the media should observe to ensure neutrality and impartiality, as well as the legislation that should be amended to comply with the new Egyptian constitution.
Dr Renee Clough, regional director of the German FoundationFriedrich Naumann, stated that the Foundation has been working since its establishment for ensuring freedom of opinion and expression, and stressed the importance of this issue in a democratic state. He added that Egypt passed through various phases to achieve democracy, including the age of the 2014 constitution which comprises various guarantees to the freedom of media and the abolition of the Ministry of Information. Therefore it is important to discuss the guarantees to the freedom of media in this conference, calling upon all the organizations to open debates on the assurance of media impartiality in Egypt.
Essam ElAmir, president of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), stressed that the freedom of journalism and the media means the freedom of the whole society and ensuring it means ensuring the other rights of the individual in the society. Therefore serious steps must be taken to develop the Egyptian media and reconstruct them, ensuring the freedom of opinion and expression and promoting the democratic system.
ElAmir also remarked the importance of the social dialogue and of the civil society as reasons for the revolutions of 25 January 2011 and 30 June 2013, and added that the state supported in the last constitution the provisions related to the development of the media system, and the standards and the special instruments that ensure such development, that is the responsibility of the media personnel and not of the state.
He stressed the importance of the media in the democratic system which must happen through the acceptance of the others, observing that this condition does not exist in the Egyptian media at the moment, and this is the issue which emerges in the political programs with the refusal of accepting others and this is the reason why media neutrality and impartiality are not achieved. Thus media should take the distance from the concepts of unreliablility, treason and underdevelopment which prove the refusal of others. Thus he calls the civil society organizations to organize many research workshops to mainstream media development, assuring that media personnel took steps in this regard to address the Supreme Press Council to change journalism, with the serious feeling of establishing a syndicate of audiovisual media and tireless efforts to establish a syndicate of the media personnel, who organized sessions in this context with the journalists syndicate. The media personnel formed a kind of committee of the Fifty to put together their ideas and transfer them to the president of the republic, who has the right to legislate for the creation of a syndicate for media personnel.
At the end of his speech, ElAmir stated that Egypt wishes the non-interference in the media personnel affairs, leaving them to organize their issues since the radio and television personnel is united and above all because they represent the Egyptian people, expressing all shades.
Session 1 was entitled “Media between Egyptian legislation and international conventions”, where Gamal ElShaer, president of the Radio and Television Institute, talked about Article 48, regulating the rights of the media. Articles 70 and 72 state that journalism and media freedom is guaranteed and that individuals have the right to run media, while Article 71 punished looting freedoms and Article 72 is related to the independence of the media institutions. If the governament media is impartial or private media takes side with capital, then we need a diversified media, including government and private and if it is supposed that government media are impartial and the solution is privatization, this will lead to more problems. We have a strong constitution that presents brilliant laws and articles, but divergence is in the details, for instance how does the Supreme Council work for the rights of the media, how media institutions are managed, or how articles of the constitution are transformed into laws?
When we say we want free media, it does not mean that they are against the state, but that they work for the interest of the spectator (individuals and society). We are in urgent need to take into account the details of law and the way these institutions are formed, as well as law enforcement, censorship and consideration of the media Code of Honor, so that rulers learn, reclaim and pay to the people the heavy costs of the revolutions.
ElShaer added that media personnel have a set of objectives for the reform of the media of the country with its legislative, executive and judiciary entities, a reform of the media for themedia personnel and a reform for the citizens.
Hafez Abo Seada said that we have a strong constitution with a very good chapter on rights and freedoms, in which Article 93 adopts all the international conventions signed by Egypt and became part of the constitution, in particular with Articles 96, 70, 71, and 72 considered the most important articles relevant to opinion in Egypt for the removal of all constraints represented in the last part of the freedom depriving penalties. On the other hand, in case of media violation of personal freedoms, information, libel and defamation, a material compensation or closure of the source is provided as in the rest of the world.
Islam ElIslambouly, barrister, asserted that the constitution is the source of freedom, since it states some standards and values of the medialife, and added that we have a huge arsenal of laws with at least 23 legislations. Therefore the amendment of these legislations and of the legal provisions is required to comply with the international norms and conventions.
He stressed that the text of the criminal and penal law must be clear and does not require explanation, especially to what is related to media, for the importance of the role of this system in the democratization process and in the public political life.
Session 2 was entitled “Freedom of opinion and expression after 25 January and 30 June: violations, constraints and objectives of the Constitution”. Dr Awatef Abd ElRahman, Professor at Faculty of Mass Communication, Cairo University, asserted that there are various legislative, professional and societal obstacles that evolve without achieving freedom of opinion and expression.He added that the freedom of opinion and expression present scene is not only a right of the media personnel, but a fundamental right for all citizens.
He also stressed that this freedom is what always creates conflict between media personnel and journalists from one side and the rulers from the other, since the task of the media personnel has always been fact-finding and corruption, while the task of rulers is to preserve their interests and to hide corruption.
Abd ElRahman intorduced a set of laws which allow the imprisonment of journalists because of their opinions, besides some social obstacles that hinder the work of journalists as the presence of a few having political and economic revenues who do not own even their fundamental rights, which is the reason of the existence of a political elite and another group living under political oppression, social injustice, information dependency from the West and the conflict to which the Arab culture is subject in facing the Western normalization.
He also proposed various alternatives for dealing with the present media crisis, including the need to eliminate the legislative constraintsand purify the laws regulating the media system, especially the freedom depriving penalties, applying the provisions of the constitution in this context and activating the professional institutions.
Here started the transformation, with the distinction between “corrupted media” and “dissension media”, then the 2012 constitution brought hostility against freedom of opinion and expression, achieving professional rules, credibility and neutrality and uphold the supreme interest of the nation.
Kollash listed the developments which followed the freedom of opinion and expression since the revolution of 25 January, since this phase saw sometimes caution and other times hesitation and the tendency to restriction in many cases, but in general the freedom of expression was exposed to violations as the constraints imposed to media personnel and journalists and their arrest in some cases.
Passing to the second phase which saw the access of the Brotherhood to power, Kollash added that freedom of opinion and expression, and of media and journalism after 30 June face a big crisis, since journalists were exposed after Rabaa and AlNahda sit-ins and the Brotherhood resorted to violent actions and authoritarian practices increased and numerous violations targeted tenths of the media personnel.
Kollash closed his speech with the importance of organizing initiatives to close the door to the constraints of law with the excuse of the anarchy of the media, and asserting that media and journalism are a treasure for any system according to the late Kamal Zahiry. Therefore we need to realize the revolution of the people and their right to freedom and justice.
During Session 3, entitled “New Media Councils: dictatorial authorities or independent bodies?”, Mr Said Ghadban said that guaranteeing the lack of control of the capital on the media is considered the most important element for ensuring the freedom of the media, since business men are the biggest danger for the control of the media by the government.
Dr Mohamed Hany addressed the problem of the National Media Council as a time constraint, since there is a desire, but it is not true and inactive, since the media personnel know what they want but do not know how to obtain it.
Yahia Kollash, Former President of the Journalists Syndicate and speaker on behalf of the National Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Expression, affirmed that this freedom is one of the important headings in the file of public freedoms exercised by democratic societies, and that are thus called “mid-held freedoms”. The freedom of journalism and the media, their respect and guarantees in any society are the key measure for the enjoyment of the freedom of expression.
Dr Mahmoud Alam Eddin, Professor at Faculty of Mass Communication, Cairo University, asserted the existence of a deficiency in the media system, since there is a professional decline and the media became based on collision and lack of trust between the people and the government on one side and the media on another.
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