Press law discussion to begin after civil service, pension laws are voted: Parliament

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 20 Jul 2016

Egypt parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al told MPs that the discussion of a controversial press law amendment will begin only after the debate on two new civil service and pension laws has been finalised

Ali Abdel Aal
An archival for Egypt's parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal (Photo: Al Ahram)

Egypt parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al indicated Wednesday that parliament will discuss a legislative amendment that grants Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi the right to reshuffle the Higher Press Council only after two other important laws -- one concerning civil service and the other pensions -- have been finalized and voted on.

"The greatest priority is now being devoted to discussing and finalizing the civil service and pension laws and once these are passed in parliament the debate on the press law can begin," said Abdel-Al.

The amendment, proposed by independent MP and journalist Mostafa Bakri and approved by 324 MPs, was scheduled to be debated last Sunday.

Ministers of social solidarity and finance told MPs on Monday and Tuesday that the two laws on civil service and pensions should be passed before state employees and pensioners receive their salaries next August. Parliament approved, in principal, the 76-article civil service bill on Sunday. It has passed 22 articles of this controversial law on Tuesday.

The two laws concerning civil service and pensions could be finalized next week if speaker Abdel-Al choose to hold new plenary meetings on Sunday.

Abdel-Al said Bakri's amendment was put on the agenda of debates this week after it met all constitutional requirements, but added, "We now have a priority that the civil service and pension laws be discussed and voted first."

The press law amendment, which was approved by parliament's media committee last month, would change Article 86 of the Press Law (Law 96/1996) to allow the president of the republic to issue a decree that gives him the power to appoint a Higher Press Council until a new unified law on the regulation of the press and media is passed by parliament.

The amendment states that the new 15-member Higher Press Council will be empowered to name new editors and board chairmen of state-run press organizations as the legal term of the current ones have expired at the end of June.

Bakri said the delay in discussing his amendment of the press law leads to state-run press organizations incurring greater financial losses.

"Due to their growing losses, these organizations received EGP 1.155 billion in financial assistance from the state in 2015, " said Bakri, adding that "between 2009 and 2014 these organizations obtained only EGP 241 million from the state."

"We have to issue the amendment as soon as possible to stem the tide of losses in these organizations," said Bakri.

Bakri also argued that the new unified law on press and media will take a long time to debate and pass by parliament. "It includes 270 articles and will need a complete parliamentary session to be discussed and passed."

"As a result," Bakri concluded, "this amendment of the press law has become an urgent need."  

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