Egyptian MP proposes tougher penalties for insulting the president, senior state officials

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 9 May 2017

Egyptian MP Kamal Amer, the head of parliament's national security and defence committee, proposed on Tuesday amending the penal code to toughen penalties on those convicted of insulting the president of the republic and other senior state officials.

Amer, a former head of Egypt's military intelligence, said his draft law aims to stem the tide of insults directed at the president and other state officials and authorities by some television channels and newspapers.

Amer said that Article 179 would be amended to state that those convicted of insulting the president would face a prison sentence ranging from 24 hours to three years and a fine between EGP 50,000 and EGP 100,000.

Article 184 would be amended to state that those convicted of insulting parliament or any of the country's sovereign state authorities like the army, judicial courts, public authorities or any state symbol would face prison and a fine between EGP 50,000 and EGP 100,000.

"My law does not stand against objective criticism of state officials and policies, but stands against those who exploit press and media freedoms to publically insult the president and other state officials," said Amer.

Salah Hassaballah, an MP and head of the Freedom Party, told Ahram Online that he supports Amer's amendments.

"I completely agree with Amer that insults and slandering have become commonplace in some independent newspapers and television channels," said Hassaballah, adding that "some like to take these insults as an integral part of press freedoms and democracy."

However, Kamal Ahmed, an independent MP, told Al-Ahram Online that he is against Amer's legislative amendments.

"I agree that some journalists have been recently involved in insulting the president and other senior state officials, but the reaction to this should not be to toughen penalties," said Ahmed.

"Egypt's 2014 constitution is clear in that it stands against imposing jail sentences on journalists convicted of publication offences."

Ahmed also argued that the press syndicate should be the one responsible for disciplining journalists accused of breaching its code of ethics or insulting public figures.

Amer's legislative amendments come after parliament's media committee began discussing a new press and media law this week.

Osama Heikal, the head of parliament’s media committee, told journalists on Monday that the law bans imposing prison sentences on journalists convicted of publication offences.

"This goes in line with Article 71 of the constitution, which states that journalists convicted of publication offences cannot face prison sentences," said Heikal.

Four months ago, Egypt’s parliament filed a lawsuit against high-profile journalist Ibrahim Eissa after Speaker of the House Ali Abdel-Aal accused him of “insulting parliament.”

In February, parliament stripped politician Anwar El-Sadat of his parliamentary membership after he was accused of insulting parliament.

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