EOHR: A list of sanctions by “Supreme Council for Media Regulation”. a restriction on freedom of opinion and expression.

March 19th, 2019 by Editor

EOHR: A list of sanctions by “Supreme Council for Media Regulation”. a restriction on freedom of opinion and expression.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) has expressed its concern about the list of sanctions prepared by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, additionally, the organization emphasizes that the list contains a new violation of the freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by the Constitution and the international conventions on human rights.

The Supreme Council for Media Regulation issued the resolution No. 16 of 2019 to impose a list of sanctions and measures that shall be applied on those who are subjected to the provisions of the Press, Information Regulation Law and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation.
Through the organization’s review of the regulation, it demonstrates that article 7 has opened the door for the inequalities in the legal positions where the President of the Council has been given the right to repeal the sanctions issued by the Council by a unilateral decision, without even setting limits for the reasons behind it, which opens the door to the desire in implementing the decisions.
Article 8 has given the Supreme Council for Media Regulation the right to act as the custody of syndicates in order to grant the Council the right to refer the journalist and media to disciplinary accountability before his syndicate, even though the referral decision itself is an inherent right of syndicates if it considers that the complaints filed require this decision.
The article also grants the Council the right to impose temporary disciplinary sanctions against journalists and media personnel (under the name of preventive measures), such as the prohibition of appearing in newspapers, the media or websites until the completion of disciplinary accountability before the Syndicate.
Furthermore, Article 17 imposed excessive criminal penalties not provided in the Penal Code in which the limits of the fine reach 250 thousand pounds for the dissemination of anonymous news, which means that the newspapers will publish only the statements issued by the official authorities, this could be interpreted as a restriction and marginalization of the freedom of publication. The same article also includes the punishment with the same fine in such elastic statements as: threatening the national fabric, defamation of state institutions, inflicting harm on its public interests, provoking the public, insulting the other opinions, publishing or broadcasting anonymous news, rumors, and sharing information on social media without validation.
Article 27 gives the council the right to prevent journalists and individuals from appearing for a limited period of time for reasons of offenses such as “defamation state institutions, harming public interests, stirring up the public, insulting the other opinion, breaching national security requirements” Which are more restrictive and should have been more disciplined. Moreover, the Penal Code has sufficient provisions that punish the perpetrators of such offenses. The article stipulates that:

“The Supreme Council for Media Regulation shall, after conducting the necessary investigation, take the necessary measures to prevent the appearance of the interviewer or an individual for a limited period of time in the following cases:
* Violating the Code of Honor of the Press, Media, standards or written customs (codes)
* Commit or incite a criminal offense.
* Commit any of the violations stipulated in the law or the regulations issued accordingly.
* National security considerations as not to provoke the masses or harm the interests of the state.

The organization deems that the article 27 violates article 71 of the Constitution, which states that “Any censorship of the press and the Egyptian media or confiscation, suspension or closure, shall be prohibited” However, it is allowed to impose certain censorship exceptionally in time of war or public mobilization. There shall be no penalty depriving of liberty in offenses committed by way of publication or publicity. The crimes related to incitement to violence or discrimination between citizens or to challenge the individuals honor, shall be determined by law. “
Moreover, the restriction decision violates section two in article 19 of the International Convention on civil rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes the right to seek, receive and share information and ideas with others with no regard to borders, whether in written, printed or in a technical form or other means of his choice. “
The organization confirms that the writer or the journalist has the right to criticism according to the constitution. Article 47 of the constitution states that: “Freedom of opinion shall be guaranteed. Every human being may express his opinion and publish it by speech, writing, photography or other means of expression within the limits of law, self-criticism and constructive criticism in order to ensure the safety of national construction.

The organization also states that such measures aimed at freedom of opinion and expression are no longer feasible in the era of globalization and communications, and have no outcomes other than abusing human rights in Egypt. It demands commitment to the pledges made to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva regarding the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as its ratification on the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, in addition to the binding provisions of the Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression for all.
It stresses on the need to stop all forms of confiscation and control of the freedom of opinion and expression, especially the right to freedom of broadcast and the circulation of information, as well as the need to issue decisions to stop channels by judicial rulings and not by administrative decisions.
Additionally, the organization calls for the review of the legal legislation that regulates freedom of the press, especially public media. This system did not recognize the independence and freedom of written, electronic, audio and visual media, and sought to impose restrictions that limit its work as well as the lack of clear legislative guarantees for the freedom and independence of the media, freedom of individuals to issue and establish them, freedom of access to information, freedom of syndicate organization. The four freedoms are necessary for the freedom of the media, thus there is a need to issue a new law for the press authority, the Syndicate of journalists, and the freedom of information circulation.

For his part, Dr. Hafez Abu Saeda, the president of the organization, has stressed that media and journalism are considered to be one of the monitoring tools in democratic societies. It is the fundamental pillar in the respect and guarantee of human rights. In this context, international conventions, covenants and constitutions have emphasized on this right as one of the guarantees of the democratic system.
Abu Saeda pointed out that this regulation should have been reviewed again before it was issued and presented to the Syndicate of Journalists.
He called for the appropriation of financial sanctions, pointing out that the large exaggeration of financial fines severely restricts the freedom of expression.

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