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Egypt's journalists' syndicate says new anti-terror law will curtail press freedoms

The proposed legislation imposes a minimum two-year sentence as punishment for 'reporting false information on terrorist attacks which contradict official statements'

Ahram Online , Sunday 5 Jul 2015
Journalists
News photographers and journalists protest against the detention of photojournalist Abou Zeid, also known as "Shawkan", in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo February 8, 2015 (File photo: Reuters)
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The press syndicate has said a new anti-terror law Egypt is set to pass will trample on press freedoms and enable authorities to censor media.

The draft anti-terrorism legislation imposes a minimum two-year sentence as punishment for "reporting false information on terrorist attacks which contradict official statements.”

The law was approved by the cabinet last week after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi pledged tougher legal measures to combat terrorism following the assassination of the country's top public prosecutor in a Cairo car-bomb attack.

This part of the law is believed to have been triggered by media coverage of last week's coordinated assaults by Islamic State militants in North Sinai which showed huge discrepancy between the official death toll of soldiers and that published by some local and foreign media outlets.

The military said the attacks, the deadliest in years in the restive region, killed 21 members of security forces and over 200 insurgents.

Observers say that if the law is approved, the new legislation will contravene the constitution.  

"This article [33] is an outright violation of the constitution, and will illegally impose a new a penalty to publishing crimes," said Gamal Abdel-Rehim, under-secretary of the Journalists' Syndicate.

"This way, the law will transform journalists into machines automatically publishing official statements without thinking. It denies them the right to obtain the information from different sources and restricts the [sourcing] process to one entity."

According to the Egyptian constitution, no press crime is punishable by custodial penalties. The charter, however, says there should only be punishment for press violations associated with "inciting violence, discrimination between citizens or libel" and that this should be defined by law.

The syndicate said in a Sunday statement that the law includes other loosely defined articles that undermine press freedoms and enables authorities to censor it.

These include items that impose jail terms for promoting  "terrorist crimes" verbally or in writing or "broadcasting content that is misleading to authorities" or "disrupting the course of justice."

Another article bans recording or broadcasting court hearings without court sanction, something Abdel-Rehim says entails "dangerous restrictions on media and press operation."

"Court hearings are public unless there is a gag order from the court or the top prosecutors," he said.

The law will be referred to the State Council, a judicial advisory body, for legal review, and will then await the president's approval before it can be passed by decree.

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Gabrelle
06-07-2015 07:05pm
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What happens when you can't handle the truth
Article 33 of the cabinet-approved draft law stipulates a minimum two-year prison sentence for anyone who reports casualty tolls from militant attacks that stray from government figures. The new legislation also appears to grant police and soldiers impunity when carrying out "anti-terrorism" operations, saying they cannot be held criminally liable for the use of force.
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9



Steve
06-07-2015 05:02pm
2369-
2805+
One opinion and the other opinion...
And this is translated from Arabic as I heard this 2 years ago in Egypt. Is it still evident 2 years later? In any case, in my humble opinion, the opinion of the government as being interpreted through one opinion and that is what goes! As for the opinion of others, they are deemed offensive, against the government, supporting the mb, etc. as deemed by the opinion of the government. Am I right in saying so or off target a bit?
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8



expat
06-07-2015 02:45pm
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over reaction,which fires back...
during the day of the attack various numbers were told by people which didnt want to be named from the official side. This is not the fault of the journalists,which do their job,its a constant leakage in the ranks/officers of the security agencies. the reaction to ban now the journalists from searching for information gives a bad feedback from the western countries,which see the journalists as the forth public force beside the state,controlling the state. this should be considered,when making decisions in this situation,because western media can frighten tourists and investments away from egypt VERY easy
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7



Farid
06-07-2015 09:42am
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Two faces of same coin
And what when official statements are incorrect or false?
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6



Carole T
06-07-2015 08:32am
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Egyptian Press
I don't find fault with the new law. Egyptian press is notoriously sensationalistic. Every news pundit rushes to report unchecked news items & then have to backtrack later with facts. I also don't like the foreign press' always posting articles of doom and gloom in Egypt & still inserting a paragraph regarding the ousting of Morsi as a coup. Egypt is just fine thank you very much!
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Farhan
06-07-2015 09:54pm
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2550+
So you only have problem when they sensationalize military news, while they can write any thing about MB
and other coup opposition parties.
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Anonymous
06-07-2015 03:12am
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Press Freedom?
“Egypt's journalists' syndicate says new anti-terror law will curtail press freedoms” I had to retype the headline to make sure I didn’t misread it. The 2 words of “PRESS” and “FREEDOM” have never intersected in Egyptian history since press was founded! Any journalist, TV host, or Online Analyst who dares to write an article or an opinion not in line with the government or the establishment is arrested, jailed, or worse! The only visible press freedom is this AO comments section where anonymous folks can speak their mind without retribution, I hope!
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4



Ostasia
05-07-2015 10:52pm
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541+
Tough balance to achieve
What we saw with Libya and Syria it was all Media Propaganda, also the MB has a huge network. So the spread of false news, and most western MSM still repeated the false news til today, that 100's are dead, without mentioning anything about Terrorist/Daesh attack on security/army forces and that it's in fact Terrorists being killed. The way it sounds when they report is as if regular citizens and soldiers were killed. So basically give a view as if the situation in Sinai was out of control and there's Daesh setting up camp. This sort of media war was successful in Libya and Syria, so I understand how the egyptian authorities want to immediately combat this part of the war too, because yes that's what it is. In a state of war, there can be no Press Freedom, because the first casualty of war is usually the Truth, and we must guard it and make sure we win the propaganda war as well. Keep that in mind. Tahya Misr!
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3



Khan
05-07-2015 10:16pm
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Sisi have to go
Egyptian must be united against west agent sisi and al baradie these 2 guys mess up Egypt
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2



Mouad Kastit
05-07-2015 09:55pm
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no society accepts being targets because of their government
anything that contradicts official government statements is false news , who is voting this new legislation there is no parliament this regime , these people in power , this elite who are ruling egypt and which isn't based on civilian consensus and which keeps attracting armed resistance and terrorist acts because of their own policies on the ground are going to get a reality check if they are not able to end their current tactics
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1



Aladdin, Alex
05-07-2015 07:24pm
984-
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Hard Decision
How to balance our freedom of speech and the threat of terrorists? I am willing to sacrifice with some freedom to crush those criminal fanatics. We are not fully mature society ready for full democracy. Tahya Misr.
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Allen
05-07-2015 09:13pm
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Farhan
Thank you for offering us the Muslim brotherhood terrorists point of view... Now get busy giving yourself fake votes.
Sam Enslow
05-07-2015 08:50pm
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'Those who trade Liberty for Security get neither' Ben Franklin
During Vietnam, the military and intelligence services even distorted the 'facts' they gave to President Johnson. It was a newsman, Walter Cronkite, who informed him he had lost the support of the American people. It is the nature of people to tell their story in such a wsy it shows them in the best light. A free, fact based, press is often the onky source of information a government has. The government can refute incorrect reporting by the media. Egyptians, contrary to what many of the elite believe, including new political parties, understand much of what is happening. They live with the results. Often the elite are exempt.
Farhan
05-07-2015 08:25pm
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First of all there is no freedom in Egypt, Any person who criticizes government
or exposes their wrongdoing , they are either imprisoned or killed, with new terrorism law killings would become more official.
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