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Egypt's parliament provisionally approves media regulation law

The law will lead to the creation of three regulatory bodies to oversee all of Egypt’s media outlets

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 13 Dec 2016
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
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A law on the "Institutional Regulation of the Press and the Media in Egypt" was approved by Egypt’s parliament on Tuesday.

The parliament’s speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs that the law was completely reviewed by the State Council.

"We will discuss this law in principle first, then discuss it article by article, and then make a final vote," Abdel-Aal said.

Abdel-Aal also argued that the new law deals with press and media freedoms in regards to Egypt's 2014 constitution.

"This is why it took a long time to be reviewed by the State Council to ensure it does not infringe on freedoms or contravene the constitution," said Abdel-Aal.

Osama Heikal, the head of Parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, also told MPs that the law was put in a debate only after it was approved by parliament's media committee and the legislative and constitutional affairs committee.

Heikal said the 89-article law, prepared by government-affiliated experts in media laws, aims to create three regulatory bodies that will oversee all media outlets in Egypt.

Heikal indicated that another law on media regulation, drafted by 101 MPs led by independent deputy and high-profile journalist Mostfa Bakri, was also proposed.

"But we will primarily focus on the first law because it is more comprehensive," said Heikal.

According to Heikal, "once the legislation on the three media bodies is ratified by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and their board members are named, the committee will begin discussing a second law on media and press conditions."

 "The new three regulatory bodies will be invited to give their say on this general media law," said Heikal.

Leftist MPs Haitham Al-Hariri and Khaled Youssef attacked the new law, expressing fears that it might be ruled unconstitutional.

"The fact that it was reviewed by the State Council does not mean that it will not be ruled unconstitutional," said Al-Hariri, arguing that "the State Council has revised the general law on the media, but it did not have a say on the three media regulatory bodies law."

Speaker Abdel-Aal said articles 211, 212, and 213 stipulate that three regulatory bodies should be formed first to give a say on press and media laws.

"So it is logical that we discuss first the law on the three media regulatory bodies," said Abdel-Aal.

Alaa Abed, the head of parliament's human rights committee, said the release of new media laws in Egypt have become a pressing need.

"The new law should come to impose some control on the Egyptian media to ensure that it toes the national line," said Abed, accusing "private television channels of covering national issues in an unprofessional way, with some of them having gone to the extent of inciting violence against the state."

"While military and police soldiers sacrifice their lives defending the country against terrorism, we see that some media people are doing their best to tarnish the image of the state," said Abed.

However Abdel-Aal stressed that press and media freedoms are guaranteed by the constitution.

"I know that some media outlets do a bad job, but I insist that, in general, the Egyptian media does a good job and defend the supreme interests of the country," said Abdel-Aal.

Independent MP Mostafa Bakri also launched a scathing attack against the Higher Press Council and the Press Syndicate, accusing members of their boards of doing their best to delay the release of new media laws.

"They want to stay in their positions without any legal grounds," Bakri complained.

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