Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Freeing up press controls

The newly-issued law of the Supreme Press Council is being hailed by journalists as a victory for press freedom, Reem Leila reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

A month after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, moves are afoot to free the state-owned press from interference from the regime. On 29 July a presidential decree was issued establishing a new Supreme Press Council (SPC) which will be charged with managing and developing state-owned media institutions and setting technical, managerial and economic targets. Regulations governing the operation of the SPC, issued by Interim President Adli Mansour, prohibit the detention of journalists for publication offences, ease arbitrary censorship and seek to make access to information easier.
Press Syndicate head Diaa Rashwan notes that Shura Council control of the media and press will be delegated to the new SPC. The council will comprise 15 public figures. Two members of the Press Syndicate in addition to its head, veteran journalists and the head of the Egyptian Writers Union, will be among the members. “A representative of the Ministry of Finance will monitor the council’s finances. He will join two professors of law specialised in press legislation and two professors of mass communication on the council,” says Rashwan.
According to Rashwan: “The law is a positive step towards press freedom and means the interim president has fulfilled his promises to journalists.”
Shortly after being appointed, Mansour met with media representatives to discuss the problems they faced.
Deputy Chairman of the Press Syndicate Gamal Fahmi believes the new law will check attacks targeting the media and seeking to silence “voices opposed to political despotism under the guise of religion”.
Under the new law, detention of journalists accused of insulting the president has been abolished. If found guilty they will instead face a fine between LE10,000 and LE30,000. “Laws and legislative amendments aimed at lifting the shackles currently stifling press freedom will be issued immediately after the law is approved,” says Fahmi.
During his time as president, Morsi issued a decree ordering the pre-trial detention of journalists charged with insulting the president, prompting hundreds of media personnel to organise public protests.
The law has been welcomed by human rights groups.
“The new regulations embody the values of the revolution that deposed Hosni Mubarak. This is a happy day for media freedom in Egypt. For the first time since the January 2011 Revolution professional journalists cannot be jailed for what they write,” said Fahmi.
Nour Farahat, professor of law at Zagazig University, points out that freedom of opinion and expression in general, and press freedom in particular, are constitutionally protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights — articles 19 in both documents — which have been ratified by Egypt.
“The media, in all its forms, plays a central role in uncovering and disseminating the truth. In order to facilitate this role media personnel must be protected against any threats which might hinder their work,” says Farahat.
Under the Morsi regime complaints were filed before the prosecutor-general against Adel Hammouda, editor of Al-Fagr, and Khaled Hanafi, the newspaper’s managing editor, accusing them of libelling leading regime figures. Abdel-Halim Kandil, editor of the weekly Sawt Al-Umma, was also charged with insulting the president in his articles.

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