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Morsi ends preventive custody for journalists charged in 'press crimes'

In first show of new-found legislative authority, president issues law ending temporary detention for 'publication offences'; Al-Dostour's Islam Afify expected to be released imminently

Zeinab El Gundy, Thursday 23 Aug 2012
Islam Afifi
Islam Afifi, the chief editor of el-Dostor newspaper, center, attends a court hearing in Giza. (Photo:AP)
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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Thursday evening issued a new law cancelling the Mubarak-era practice of temporarily detaining journalists for so-called "publication offences," including the charge of "offending the president of the republic."

The move means that Al-Dostour Editor-in-Chief Islam Afify – recently detained on charges of publishing false information about Morsi – will be released imminently.

According to local media reports, Egypt's public prosecutor has already ordered Afifi's release.

Afify's detention had sparked considerably controversy among local politicians and journalists, who saw the practice as a violation of basic press freedoms reminiscent of the ousted Mubarak regime.

Angry reactions to his detention had quickly appeared on Twitter under the hashtag #لا لحبس الصحفيين, or "No to the imprisonment of journalists," with several political groups issuing statements condemning the move.

Local human rights organisations, meanwhile, such as the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, along with international organisations such as Reporters without Borders, had also condemned Afify's detention.

Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said Morsi's decision to abolish the practice of temporarily detaining reporters for press offences represented the president's first use of his legislative authority, which Morsi assumed earlier this month at the expense of Egypt's military.

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