Osama Heikal, head of parliament’s media and culture committee, said that the media and press laws will be issued during the current legislative term, stressing on the constitutionality of the articles included in the bills.
The parliament has preliminarily approved the three laws regulating the work of the Supreme Media Council, the National Press Authority, and the National Media Authority in June, referring them to the State Council for legal review.
The laws are expected to be later sent to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for ratification. The laws were drafted three years ago by the government and several media experts.
The heads of three media and press bodies are expected to be sworn in before parliament to be committed with the new laws, but during the upcoming legislative term, which will mark the fourth for the Egyptian Parliament.
Heikal said the laws drafted by the government will be a “major shift and rescue for the national press and media institutions for a better, brighter future for them.”
However, members of the Press Syndicate have submitted some concerns regarding the law to the parliament. Two weeks ago, the Press Syndicate members Gamal Abdel Rahim, Amr Badr, Saeed Abdel Hafez, and Mahmoud Kamal denounced the new laws, saying that they were all surprised by the bill that the parliament has discussed over the past several days to regulate the work of the press and media. More than 200 journalists have signed the statement expressing their rejection.
The government had previously submitted one draft law to regulate the work of all three bodies, but the media committee recommended drafting laws for each body, due to the difference in nature of each entity.
In a televised interview on Friday, the head of Press Syndicate, Abdel Mohsen Salama, said that the draft law regulating the work of the press and media includes 130 articles, of which the syndicate is opposed to eight articles, including Article 29, which allows detention of journalists over accusations related to publishing. The article was criticised for vague accusations.
Salama suggested that the article should be amended to comply with the constitution, which stipulates in Article 71 that journalists can be detained if they publish content inciting violence or promoting discrimination, along with defamation or invasion of privacy.
Last week, the head of Egypt’s National Press Authority, Karam Gabr, said in a statement that the new press law is constitutional and does not include any contradicting articles.
Regarding Article 29, he said that there are claims that the article could bring journalists to jail, explaining that journalists can be jailed if they incite violence or promote discrimination between citizens, or impugn the honour of individuals, as specified by law and stipulated in Article 71 of the constitution. However, he demanded an amendment to the article.
Article 71 in the constitution stipulates that it is prohibited to censor, confiscate, suspend, or shut down Egyptian newspapers and media outlets in any way. By way of exception, they may be subject to limited censorship at times of war or general mobilisation. It also adds that no freedom-restricting penalty shall be imposed for publication or publicity crimes. As for crimes related to the incitement of violence, discrimination between citizens, or the impugnment of individual honour, the law shall stipulate the penalties therefor.
Meanwhile, Article 29 stipulates that pre-trial detention for journalists shall not be permitted for offenses committed by way of publication or publicity, except for offenses related to incitement of violence, discrimination between citizens, or defamation of individuals.