Thursday,14 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)
Thursday,14 December, 2017
Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Press and media law on track

A long-awaited law on the press and media is now in parliament’s hands, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

 

Press and media law on track
Press and media law on track

Parliament’s Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee began discussing a general press and media law on Sunday. Head of the committee Osama Heikal told reporters that the long-awaited draft law represents a progressive step for media and press organisations in Egypt. “This draft law aims to upgrade the performance of press organisations and media businesses in Egypt,” Heikal said.

The new general press and media law which includes around 150 articles is different from the Press and Media Regulation Law which was passed by parliament in December 2016, explained Heikal.

The 90-article Press and Media Institutional Regulation (PMIR) Law only deals with regulatory matters in the form of setting up three bodies which are currently responsible for supervising press and media matters in Egypt in line with Articles 211, 212 and 213 of the 2014 constitution, Heikal said.

As for the general press and media law, he said, it deals with freedoms and rights of the press and media organisations in Egypt. “It also covers the different forms of ownership of press organisations, and how these organisations should perform their businesses and activities.”

He indicated that the law covers controversial issues such as the retirement age for journalists, how foreign news agencies can perform in Egypt and who will be in charge of licensing them. While the draft law sets the retirement age for journalists at 65, it makes the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR) — instead of the State Information Service (SIV) — responsible for licensing foreign news offices and correspondents in Egypt, said Heikal.

Copies of the general press and media law were sent to the three press and media regulatory bodies for remarks, according to Heikal. “This goes in line with the constitution which states that the opinion of the Higher Council for Media Regulation, the National Press Organisation and the National Media Regulation should be identified ahead of a general press and media law passed in parliament,” he said. Another copy was sent to the Press Syndicate which has a major interest in this law, he added. “The committee could not begin discussing the law before we first receive the comments and remarks of these entities,” Heikal added.

Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the Higher Council for Media Regulation, told reporters that the council had already sent a report containing its remarks and comments on the law’s articles to parliament’s Media Committee. “In general, we approve this draft,” said Ahmed. “We approve that the retirement age be extended from 60 at present to 65 in future, but with certain stipulations such as that a journalist should have served the last five years of his job or the period between 55 and 60 years of age in his press organisation,” said Ahmed, adding that “the board of the organisation should also certify that a journalist should have an outstanding performance in these years in order to be allowed to retire at 65 instead of 60.”

Independent MP and journalist Mustafa Bakri indicated that the two laws on the press and media and the three regulatory bodies were at first one legislation. “But because of articles 211, 212 and 213, it was decided that they diverge into two laws,” adding that “while the first one on the media’s regulatory bodies passed last December helped a lot in settling financial, legal and administrative conditions in national press organisations, the second one — the general press and media law — aims to provide them with greater freedoms.”

Omar Marawan, minister of parliamentary affairs, said the general press and media law was drafted by experts from the government and the Press Syndicate. “They were keen that the draft law is balanced and supportive of press freedoms,” Marawan said.

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