Last Update 18:5
Thursday, 14 November 2019

Egypt parliament warns media against 'exceeding limits' of freedom of speech

Egypt's parliamentary speaker has said local media outlets that ‎'insult' MPs could face legal challenges

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 18 Apr 2016
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
Views: 2965
Views: 2965

Egypt’s parliamentary speaker said Monday that parliament is ‎ready to take legal action against television programmes that "direct criticism at MPs ‎in a way which exceeds the limits of ‎freedom of expression."‎

In an official statement, headed "Freedom of ‎Expression Should Not Be Used to Justify ‎Slandering and Insulting Institutions,” parliament warned MPs who write ‎articles or accept to be guests on talk ‎shows to be careful and not to let ‎themselves tarnish the image of ‎parliament.‎

The statement said that while articles 65 and ‎‎70 of the new constitution state that ‎freedom of expression is guaranteed and ‎that the freedom of establishing all forms of ‎media outlets is allowed, parliament is also ‎authorised to alert attention to the fact that ‎‎"this freedom should not go to the ‎extent of directing insults or slandering ‎state institutions."‎

According to the statement, "there is a ‎delicate difference between exercising ‎freedom of expression as a constitutional ‎right and insulting or defaming state ‎institutions."

"The first is an allowed form of political criticism, while ‎the second only aims at tarnishing the ‎image of state institutions and disparaging ‎them," the statement said.‎

The statement notes that a number of ‎television programmes and public figures ‎have recently directed insults to parliament ‎and its MPs in a way that exceeds the ‎limits of freedom of expression and leads ‎to defaming them in the eyes of their ‎constituents.

"We also note that some of ‎these programmes adopt one point of view ‎ without presenting other different ‎viewpoints," said the statement, warning ‎that "the right of expression should not be ‎used in an arbitrary way because directing ‎insults to MPs is in fact means directing ‎insults to citizens who elected these MPs."‎

The statement also indicated that ‎parliament's new by-laws, which were ‎signed into law by President Abdel-Fattah ‎El-Sisi on Sunday, state that in exercising ‎their parliamentary duties MPs are urged to ‎observe the dignity of state authorities ‎inside or outside parliament "and those ‎who fail to observe this right will be ‎considered guilty of violating parliamentary ‎rules."‎

The statement was released a few moments after ‎parliament voted in its morning session on ‎Monday to expel independent MP ‎Samir Ghattas from the chamber.

‎Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al accused ‎Ghattas, a political researcher, of "violating ‎parliamentary rules whether inside or ‎outside parliament."

"This MP is fond of ‎defaming parliament in every possible way ‎and I urge all MPs who like to talk to TV ‎programmes to be careful and read ‎very well legal articles about the crime of ‎slander," said Abdel-Al.

Ghattas tried to interrupt Abdel-Al, insisting ‎that he was very well informed of all "the files" ‎he discussed in TV programmes. Ghattas ‎also refused to leave the chamber initially, until ‎some MPs persuaded him to do so.

Upon the request of Abdel-Al, MPs voted in ‎favour of expelling Ghattas and referring ‎him to a special parliamentary investigation ‎committee. The speaker said that "as the ethics ‎committee has not yet been formed, ‎Ghattas will be questioned by a special ‎parliamentary committee."‎

Abdel-Al noted that state institutions, ‎particularly the army, have been lately ‎facing a hostile campaign. "This campaign ‎began with directing insults to President El-‎Sisi, extending later to entail Egypt's ‎national army which saved this country ‎from chaos," he said.

He wondered ‎how "a man who was prepared to sacrifice his ‎life on 30 June could be insulted in this bad way." ‎

Abdel-Al's words received enthusiastic and ‎prolonged applause and a standing ovation ‎from MPs.‎

In a sitting on Sunday afternoon, MPs also ‎led a chorus of attacks against some local ‎media outlets and social networks, ‎accusing them of doing their best to “spread ‎chaos” in Egypt.‎

In response, Abdel-‎Al threatened that parliament is ready to ‎take all measures necessary against ‎media outlets which were involved in ‎defaming the country's legislative body.‎

In the words of Abdel-Al, "we respect ‎freedom of speech, but this freedom ‎should be responsible, and we reject ‎defamation and are ready to invoke all ‎necessary legal procedures in this ‎respect."‎

Joining forces with the speaker, Minister of Parliamentary ‎Affairs Magdi El-Agati said that “three new ‎media laws” are being drafted by the justice ‎ministry.

"Officials of the justice ministry ‎are holding meetings on a daily basis to ‎finish drafting three new laws on media and ‎the press," said El-Agati.‎

The attacks were led by ‎independent MP and high-profile journalist ‎Mostafa Bakri who accused the ‎government of standing "helpless" in the face of ‎protests which were organised in ‎downtown Cairo on Friday.

"This is not a strong ‎government as it kept silent towards last ‎Friday's protests," said Bakri.‎

Thousands of protesters had gathered outside the Journalists Syndicate to oppose a recent government deal that acknowledged Saudi sovereignty over two Red Sea islands. The deal is yet to be ratified by parliament.

Bakri wondered why "the government is ‎still taking hesitant steps in the area of ‎media laws."

"It just chose to keep silent ‎towards the conspiracies led by different ‎media outlets and by countries like Qatar ‎and Turkey against Egypt and President ‎Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi himself," said Bakri.‎

Bakri urged the government to present all ‎the new laws aimed at regulating the ‎media. He also urged prosecution ‎authorities not to release those arrested during the protest.

"They were using protests to incite the ‎people against their government and they want ‎us to be another Libya," said Bakri.‎

Bakri also attacked some TV channels and ‎programmes for ridiculing MPs and portraying ‎them as "idiots”, citing Abla Fahita, a puppet who gives folksy-yet-satirical commentary on life in Egypt during a weekly eponymous television show on CBC channel, as an example.

"Some have even gone so ‎far to use Facebook to describe MPs ‎who approve of the [Saudi-Egyptian] agreement as traitors," ‎said Bakri.‎

Joining forces, Hatem Patshat, a leading ‎MP affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party ‎and a former intelligence officer, heaped ‎praise on El-Sisi.

‎‎"He is a man who intervened in order not to ‎allow Egypt to become another Yemen and ‎Syria and fall into the hands of Muslim ‎Brotherhood," he said.

He also urged ‎the local media to improve their ‎performance and to stand up to "the campaigns ‎led by the Qatar-based channel of Al-‎Jazeera."‎

Independent MP Mohamed Akl said he is ‎in favour of tightening laws aimed at ‎controlling foreign-funded NGOs, ‎and regulating the media and social ‎networks.

"We also have a duty as MPs to ‎warn citizens in our constituencies of the ‎dangers of hostile media and campaigns ‎aimed at spreading chaos in Egypt," said ‎Akl.‎

In response, Minister El-Agati said that "the ‎government has no control over Abla Fahita." ‎‎

"I wonder what we can do against this Abla ‎Fahita," he said, amid laughter from ‎MPs.‎

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19-04-2016 12:58pm
Information War
Yes, there is a info war going on, everywhere and against anyone who doesn't tow the line of certain powerful people with interests. Egypt is no exception. With respect to the Parliament and all the MP's - please stop worrying about this, instead do your utmost to do the best job you can, do everything in your power to represent the people in your constituency. When people see improvements, their problems addressed and handled, the negative media or information war will fall on deaf ears. This is your best shield, do the best job ever for your people - we do not need endless debates over a wrong media story or a insult or even worse, this silly puppet Abla Fahita. You have to work and have a thick skin, that's how it is these days. Transparency for issues concerning citizens is also a big must!
Comment's Title

Sam Enslow
19-04-2016 08:59am
Behave in proper manner not insulting to Egyptians
Maybe Parliament would do better if they themselves acted in respectful ways. Members of Parliament are to serve the interests of the people, sometimes fighting state institutions. If they fail at this, they deserve criticism, and harsh criticism. Only under dictatorships is it not common practice for Parliaments to suffer criticism and ridicule. In the US members of Congress are held in lower esteem than used car salesmen. Will Rodgere once quipped that America has the best Congress money can buy. It is the nature of politics. If you cannot stand the heat, stay out if the kitchen.
Comment's Title

18-04-2016 06:58pm
freedom and Egypt and Egyptian hoooo ho hhhhhhhooooooooooooo
public of Egypt are not right full for the democracy mr morsi give them freedom what happen to him world knows best how jewsh boy Albaradie used Egyptian and run away that public can not chose leader
Comment's Title
Truth Ankh Amon
18-04-2016 10:13pm
Brain Work
There is a big mess in your brain, someone stole all the furniture. Do you need an aspirin ?

18-04-2016 06:23pm
Exceeding limits of freedom of speech
The Speaker meant any independent reporting, fact checking, investigative journalism, or any articles which do not include "Egypt El-Sisi" , "we love Sisi", "long live Sisi" or "Sisi is the savior of the Egyptian army, police, and security forces"!
Comment's Title
Truth ankh amon
18-04-2016 10:06pm
Swallow it & Drink it's Water
You really are a funny guy. Colonialism is over winston boy. You are behind your chair and by the way how's your medication going?

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