Crisis between Journalists Syndicate, interior ministry should be settled by law and dialogue, says MPs

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 4 May 2016

A new law aimed at regulating the media will be discussed by a parliamentary committee

Egyptian journalists
Egyptian journalists take part in a protest outside the Syndicate headquarters in Cairo on May 3, 2016 on the occasion of World Press Freedom day (AFP)

In an announcement to reporters on Tuesday, Kamal Amer, former head of Egypt's military intelligence and the newly-elected chairman of parliament's defence and national security committee, said parliament strongly believes in freedom of speech.

"But we also believe in the necessity of keeping Egypt's national security safe because all should know that anti-Egypt forces are working by day and night to destabilise the country," said Amer.

Amer said "from a national security viewpoint, parliament's national security committee hopes that the two sides – the Journalists Syndicate and the interior ministry – will be able to contain the current crisis."

Amer, however, said "if the two sides refused to ease the tension or contain the current conflict very soon, I think the whole matter should be left to judicial authorities to give a final say that can settle this conflict in a way that keeps press freedoms and national security safe."

Amer's statement comes after Osama Heikal, chairman of parliament's media and culture committee, told reporters that he will hold a meeting with prime minister Sherif Ismail to seek a solution for the crisis between the Press Syndicate and the interior ministry.

"I want to say that dialogue is the best way to solve this crisis, and that in this context I will try my best to bring officials of the interior ministry and the press syndicate together in a dialogue meeting," said Heikal, who is also a journalist, a former information minister and the current chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City.

Amer disclosed that his committee will be the one mainly mandated with revising the new controversial agreement aimed at demarcating the maritime borders between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The agreement caused protests last month after it placed two Red Sea islands – Tiran and Sanafir – into Saudi territory.  

"Once this agreement is referred to parliament, the committee alone or with a number of other committees will take charge of revising it," said Amer, who also argued that "those who want to know whether the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian or Saudi should refer back to the National Book Organisation and he will be sure that they are Saudi."

While Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdi Al-Agati indicated last week that the government has finished preparing a complete dossier on the Egyptian-Saudi agreement, including all necessary detailed maps and documents before it  is sent to parliament, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also disclosed last week that "security measures should be first invoked before the agreement is referred to parliament."

Amer said he has no comments to give on remarks raised by some Sudanese officials who suggested that the two south Egypt cities of Halayeb and Shaltin are part of Sudan's territory.

"As President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said, while Egypt doesn't intend to cede a centimeter of its land to others, it also doesn't intend to strip others a centimeter of their land and that Halayeb and Shalatin are one hundred per cent Egyptian," said Amer.

Amer insisted that parliamentary reporters cannot be allowed to attend the national security committee's meetings. "We discuss highly secret issues related to the army, police and developments in North Sinai and these cannot be open for correspondents to cover," said Amer.

Amer, however, disclosed that the committee was divided into eight groups of MPs, with each group entrusted with studying a certain national security file.

"Each group can work alone or in collaboration with other groups," said Amer, adding that "the first group is entrusted with reviewing foreign threats facing Egypt, the second on internal security in terms of political stability, legislations, combating home-grown terror, and fighting electronic crimes."

Besides, said Amer, the third group will be dealing with internal conflicts that could damage the country's internal security such as the current crisis between the interior ministry and the press syndicate.

"The remaining groups will take care of discussing military issues, social security, security conditions in North Sinai and other border governorates, economic security, and other emergency issues," said Amer.

Amer disclosed that his committee will have a say on a new law aimed at regulating the press and media.

"We will make sure that the law not only grants the media greater freedoms in accordance with the constitution, but also guarantees that the media helps keep Egypt's national security safe," said Amer.


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