The international observatory Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) denounced the ratification of the new anti-terrorism law by the presidency on Monday.
“As of today, journalists are legally prohibited from investigating, verifying, and reporting on one of the most important matters of public interest,” CPJ Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. “The state has effectively made itself the only permissible source of news on these stories.”
The new law imposes fines ranging from EGP 200,000 to EGP 500,000 for publishing “false news or statements” about terrorist acts, or issuing reports that contradict accounts by the Egyptian Ministry of Defence.
CPJ further explained: “Critical reporting in Egypt is already under threat as journalists face intense pressure to align their reporting with the government or face indiscriminate accusations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Meanwhile, on the official level, the law was hailed by many government officials as they described it as “a vital tool in Egypt’s war against terrorism”.
Major-General Mohamed Zaki, deputy interior minister, told state television on Tuesday: “The law tackles modern forms of terrorism which have been by adopted by extremists… Journalists are not only required to double check their reports but they are also required to stand by the security men’s side rather than being hostile towards them.”
Following the 30 June uprising, a plethora of laws were ratified by the interim president, some of which are widely deemed to be unconstitutional. In November 2013, Mansour issued the controversial protest law, which conflicts with article number 73 of the 2014 constitution that allows peaceful assemblies without prior security notification or monitoring.
Mohamed Sadat, a leader in the Reform and Development Party, said: “The law could be amended by the upcoming parliament, alongside several other laws.”
According to Sadat, parliament members will be expected to modify several laws which were ratified before the election of a parliament, and this could distract them from their key role as a watchdog for the executive branch of the government.