Preliminary reading on the draft law on freedom of the press and information The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) calls for reconsidering the law of press and information and put it to the community dialogue

June 12th, 2018 by Editor

Preliminary reading on the draft law on freedom of the press and information The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) calls for reconsidering the law of press and information and put it to the community dialogue

The House of Representatives approved the draft law regulating the press and media in Egypt to the State Council to review it for any constitutional inconsistencies especially that this law violates articles 70 – 71 – 72 of the Constitution, which govern freedom of press. The new law will abrogatelaw No. 96 of 1996 on the organization of the press.Article III of the law authorizesthe Prime Minister to issue the executive regulation of the law after consulting the Supreme Council for Media Regulation and the 2 national bodies of the press and the media.

Article 4 stipulates that anyone who works in the press or media field can adjust his legal situation in accordance with the new law within one year from the date of implementing the executive regulations of this law and in accordance with the rules and procedures issued by a decision of the Supreme Media Council.

The law includes about 127 articles divided into six sections. The first section includes general provisions, like definition of what is meant by some of the words and phrases contained in the draft law, including: publications, Supreme Council, press, media, journalist, audio, Editorial policy, national press institutions, public media institutions, and digital media.

EOHR has documented a sheer number of violations of basic freedoms in this law:

  • The law includes many articles that impose penalties that cause deprivation of liberty such as Article 104 that punishes by imprisonment for a period of not less than one year or a fine of not less than one million pounds and not more than three million pounds. Anyone who intentionally intercepts, disrupts radio or television broadcasts.
  • Article 106 of the law says that the newspaper, the media institution or the electronic website that functions in contrast or violation of itslicensed activityshall be punishedby a fine of not less than one million pounds and not more than two million pounds.
  • The law reduces the number of elected members of the boards of directors of media institutions and increases the number of appointees, Article 39 of the Press Regulation Law provides for reducing the representation of journalists in the boards of directors of institutions to a minimum. In the new law the number of members of the board of directors is 13 members where only 2 are journalists. This makes the administration of any media or press institution mainly dependent on persons not belonging to the press establishment
  • The law imposes on constraints and control over freedom of the press through vague principles and accusations which leaves its interpretation open to the whims of the authorities.
  • The law ignored the retirement age of journalists which stands at 65 years and gave the authority the right to extend the services of those they see as possessing “rare experiences.” While retirement rewards for journalists have been neglected and stand at what they were before the law was issued.
  • The law did not place penalties on censorship or prevention of circulation of information

EOHR views this law as a violation of the freedom of the press, and stresses that it does not stand up to constitutional standards and provisions in that regard. EOHR demands the amendment of this law so that it may be in line with international human rights law and the Egyptian constitution.

From his side Dr. Hafez Abu Seada president of EOHR said that this law should be withdrawn and reviewed as soon as possible, and added that it should be subject to a societal dialogue before its issued. Abu Seada also said that the approval of the press syndicate of the law is essential and that the law should not contain any legal penalties that entail deprivation from liberty.

 

 

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