Egypt parliament to take final vote on three controversial media and press laws

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 14 Jul 2018

The vote will come despite objections from the Press syndicate and some opposition MPs

A file photo of Egypt's House of Representatives (Photo:Reuters)

Egypt's parliament is expected to take a final vote on Sunday on three laws regulating the press and media – the National Press Authority (NPA) law, the National Media Authority (NMA) law, the Law Regulating the Press and Media and the Higher Council for Media Regulation.

The three laws were provisionally approved by parliament on 10 and 11 June.

Informed sources told Ahram Online that the three laws are on parliament's schedule for a final debate and vote on Sunday.

"If a two-thirds majority of MPs is available, there will be a final vote on the three laws, and if not, it could be postponed to Monday or Tuesday or even after," the source said.

The head of parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, Osama Heikal, held a meeting with a delegation from the press syndicate led by chairman Abdel-Mohsen Salama on 11 July to re-negotiate some of the articles.

Following the meeting, Heikal said that the three laws would be discussed again in parliament's plenary sessions starting Sunday 15 July.

"A debate will be opened on seven articles that were amended to comply with the legal and constitutional revisions made by the State Council," said Heikal.

Heikal said the press syndicate asked that eight articles be amended.

"These are different from the articles that the State Council has demanded that they be amended," said Heikal.

Heikal argued that the State Council raised no objection on articles stating that there should be a separation between the press organisation's managerial board and editorial staff.

"Besides, the Council does not have any remarks on obliging boards to publish budgets and that it doesn't state that the laws violate press freedoms enshrined in Article 71 of the constitution."

Heikal indicated that the State Council has asked that 33 out of the National Press Authority (NPA) law's 55 articles have to just be redrafted.

"Article 23 of the NPA law, which deals with the roles of the secretary-general of the NPA, will just be a matter of re-debate in parliament," said Heikal.

The two laws on the National Press Authority and the Law Regulating the Press and Media and the Higher Council on Media Regulation were sharply criticised by the press syndicate.

The criticism focused on articles dealing with the retirement age of journalists in national press organisations, the composition of the general assembly of national press organisations, and penalties related to publication offences.

In general, the syndicate complained that the two laws strip journalists of having a say in the running of their own press organisations and that it paves the way for privatising these institutions.

In its report sent to parliament last week, the State Council said the two laws regulating the NPA and the Press and Media Authority represent a direct assault on press freedoms, warning that some of their articles violate Article 71 of the constitution.

Head of the syndicate and board chairman of Al-Ahram Press Organisation Abdel-Mohsen Salama said there are disagreements on eight articles of the two laws and that negotiations can settle them in a peaceful way.

"No one should pour oil on fire," Salama said. In a press release on 11 July, the syndicate said "there should be an objective and constructive dialogue between the syndicate and parliament on the articles which have to be amended."

The release added that "as the State Council demanded that some articles have to be amended because they violate the constitution, so the syndicate extends a hand to parliament and state authorities in order to open a new dialogue on the new controversial articles."

"We advise that there should not be a final vote on the three laws and that we recommend that a national dialogue on them be held first and that it should include parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan, and members of parliament's media, culture and antiquities committees in order to reach common ground on the laws and its articles," the release concluded.

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