Egypt’s Parliament — the House of Representatives — approved amendments to three laws related to regulating the media and press in a plenary session on Sunday.
The amended laws regulate the National Press Authority (NPA), the National Media Authority (NMA), and the Higher Council of Media Regulation.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs that the amendments came upon the request of the State Council, the Journalists Syndicate and the Syndicate of Media Workers.
"After the laws were provisionally approved on 10 and 11 June, parliament was keen to refer them to the State Council to be revised with regards to the constitution and legal terms," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "Parliament was also keen to receive the Journalists Syndicate's remarks on these three laws, particularly on the articles related to custodial penalties and retirement age."
Abdel-Aal said "after the amendments were approved, the final vote on the three laws will be postponed until a two thirds majority of MPs is available, as required by the constitution."
Osama Heikal, head of Parliament's Media, Culture and antiquities committee, told MPs that "the committee responded positively to most amendments proposed by the State Council and the Press Syndicate, because these do not serve personal interests and we all seek public interests."
Heikal said the most significant amendment was that relating to Article 29 of the Law Regulating the Press and Media.
"This article allowed that journalists accused of inciting hatred or promoting discrimination between citizens or impinging their honour be placed in custody pending trial," said Heikal, adding that "the word "custody" was removed from the article to now state "no freedom restricting penalties shall be imposed in publication or publicity crimes, '
'penalties related to crimes of inciting violence, promoting discrimination between citizens, or impinging their honour shall be regulated by the law." "This is fully in line with Article 71 of the constitution," addedHeikal.
Heikal, however, said "the committee rejected that the retirement age of journalists be automatically extended to 65." "The law allows that the retirement age of "distinguished journalists" only be extended to 65, year by year, upon the request of the press organisation's board of directors and the National Press Authority (NDP)," said Heikal.
Article 17 of the National Press Authority (NPA) now states that "the board of the national press organizations will decide whether the retirement age of journalists, managers, and workers will be extended if there is a need and that this will have to be ratified by the NPA."