Saturday,18 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)
Saturday,18 November, 2017
Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Regulating information

MPs study two media-related laws, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Media-related laws
Media-related laws

As a new freedom of information law was referred to parliament last week, the Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee (MCAC) was already approving some of the articles in the press and media regulation law, says committee head Osama Heikal.

“This press and media regulation law will be central to regulating media and press activity in Egypt and automatically leads to the elimination of current press and media laws,” said Heikal.

In December MPs passed the institutional regulation of the press and media bill which created an oversight mechanism by setting up the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR). The latest legislation addresses a wider range of issues including press freedom and the organisation of media businesses in Egypt.

The new law will come into force after it is ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and when executive bylaws are issued. The latter should be published three months after ratification.

MCAC had given a stamp of approval to Article 4 which allows HCMR to prevent foreign publications, newspapers or any other media material entering Egypt. It also allows HCMR to impose a ban on pornography and on racist printed material that might stir up hatred, violence or extremism. HCMR’s decisions can be appealed before the courts.

Article 5 empowers HCMR to supervise the financial performance of all media and press organisations and act against monopolistic practices. HCMR will also issue periodic reports on the professional performance of these organisations and is responsible for receiving and investigating complaints filed against the media.

Article 6 of the press and media regulation law concerns the make-up of the HCMR. “The article states that HCMR will comprise 13 members,” says Heikal, “and the head of HCMR will be named by the president”.

Members will include a deputy head of the State Council, the head of the Anti-Trust and Competition Protection Authority, a representative from the Telecommunication Regulation Body, two journalists to be named by the Press Syndicate, two media activists to be named by the Syndicate of Media Workers, two public figures to be named by the president and two university professors to be named by the Higher Council for Universities.

Informed sources say the new freedom of information bill is already with the MCAC.

The law, says Heikal, which was drafted by a committee comprising media experts and HCMR members, will make it easier for press and media organisations to access information and responsible officials.

HCMR head Makram Mohamed Ahmed said the law took six months to draft.

“High-profile figures such as former minister of culture Emad Abu Ghazi and experts from the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics participated in its drafting,” he said.

HCMR member Hoda Zakaria told the committee the draft comprises six chapters.

“The first makes it obligatory for government institutions to make information available to the press and media and researchers,” said Zakaria, “though it imposes a ban on the handling of sensitive information related to national security and intelligence issues.”

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