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State Council concerns about draft media law in line with syndicate's views: Egypt press syndicate official

Ahram Online , Monday 9 Jul 2018
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Egypt's Press Syndicate (Photo: Ahram Online)
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The secretary-general of Egypt's Journalists Syndicate Hatem Zakareya told Ahram Online that the syndicate's own review of a draft press law is similar in content to the State Council's recommendations on the proposed legislation, adding that the syndicate is ready to present its eight-point report to parliament.

The State Council, the judicial body tasked with revising laws and administrative disputes, said in its report on Sunday that the draft law contained constitutional flaws in some of its provisions and violates journalistic freedom.

The press syndicate is set to hold an executive board meeting on Tuesday to discuss the controversial bill.

On Thursday, six well-known members of the syndicate signed an open letter to the syndicate's head to protest the draft law, describing it as “a threat to journalism's freedom and future,” and adding they are ready to consider resignation if the law is passed in its current form.

"The syndicate is not willing to see the crisis escalate," said Zakareya in response to the members’ resignation threat.

Also on Thursday, syndicate executive board member Abou El-Soud Mohamed resigned in protest at the draft bill, but the board head Abdel-Mohsen Salama rejected his resignation.

The country's National Press Authority said earlier that the draft press law, which has sparked controversy and protest from many journalists over the past few weeks, is compatible with the constitution, while calling for some of its clauses to be amended.

The 12th article of the draft law guarantees the right of journalists to attend conferences and general meetings, conduct interviews with citizens, and photograph in the open in public spaces, after obtaining the necessary permissions.

The State Council said in its review that this article contains a potential constitutional flaw and violation of the freedom of practice, recommending the removal of "obtaining the necessary permissions" from the article text.

The State Council also found that Article 6 of the draft law raises constitutional issues.

Article 6 of the draft law prohibits the establishment of websites, or offices or branches to run websites operating from outside the country, without a priori obtaining a licence from the Supreme Media Regulatory Council, in accordance with the council's rules and regulations.

"This article in its current form raises questions of unconstitutionality. Since the draft law aims to regulate the practice and protection of press freedom through organising the ownership of press and media institutions, therefore, it should have provided a general framework that governs issuing licences to media institutions," the State Council said.

The draft law also ignored two important matters, the State Council said.

Firstly, the draft law did not specify the mechanism of collecting taxes from media institutions and websites, and licence fees for re-broadcasting from and to Egypt.

Secondly, the council said the draft law did not include an article that allows for appeals against the closure of unlicenced websites by the Supreme Media Regulatory Council before the Administrative Court.

Following the State Council report on Sunday, Osama Heikal, the head of the media, culture and antiquities committee in parliament, said the council's recommendations on the draft law were taken into consideration.

"The draft law was initially sent to the State Council to verify its constitutionality and its remarks are currently being discussed by the general secretariat of the Supreme Media Regulatory Council," Heikal added.

 

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