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Egypt parliament committee to begin discussing new press and media law Monday

The committee will begin closed-door meetings to discuss the long-awaited law on regulating press and media freedoms

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 29 Oct 2017
Egyptian parliament
A general view shows members of the Egyptian parliament attending the opening session at the main headquarters of Parliament in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2016 (Reuters)
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The head of parliament's media, culture and antiquities committee Osama Heikal told reporters Sunday that the committee will meet Monday to begin discussing a law on the regulation of the press and media in Egypt.

"This long-awaited law represents a progressive step for media and press organisations in Egypt," said Heikal, adding, "This draft law aims to upgrade the performance of Egypt's three press regulatory bodies and help upgrade and discipline media businesses."

The new Press and Media Regulation (PMR) Law, which includes around 150 articles, is different from the Institutional Regulation of the Press and Media (IRPM) law passed by parliament in December 2016, explained Heikal.

The 90-article IRPM only deals with regulatory matters in the form of setting up three bodies that are currently responsible for supervising press and media matters in Egypt in line with articles 211, 212, and 213 of the 2014 constitution, Heikal said.

As for the PMR, Heikal indicated it is a general law that addresses a range of issues, covering freedoms and rights of the press and media businesses in Egypt.

"It helps activate the roles of three regulatory bodies – the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR), the National Press Organisation (IPO), and the National Media Organisation (NMO) – to do their jobs, and also covers the different forms of the ownership of media and press organisations, and how these should perform their businesses and activities."

MP Nader Mostafa, secretary general of the media committee, also told reporters Sunday that the law covers controversial issues such as the retirement age for journalists, how foreign news agencies and correspondents can perform in Egypt, and who will be in charge of licensing them.

While the draft law sets the retirement age for journalists in state-owned press organisations at 65 under certain conditions, it makes the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR) led by veteran journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed, instead of the State Information Service (SIS), responsible for licensing foreign news offices and correspondents in Egypt.

Mostafa said copies of the PMR were sent to the three media regulatory bodies, and the Press Syndicate for remarks.

"This goes in line with the constitution which states that the opinion of the HCMR, NPO, and the NMO should be identified ahead of a new general press and media regulation law passed in parliament," Mostafa said.

Mostafa indicated that the new general media and press law and that establishing the three regulatory bodies were at first one legislation. "But because of articles 211, 212 and 213 of the constitution, it was decided that they diverge into two laws," said Mostafa.

The fact that the discussion will begin Monday shows that the committee is keen that this long-awaited law be passed in parliament's current – and third – legislative season, said Mostafa.

MP Mostafa Bakri said while the first law on the media's regulatory bodies passed last December helped in settling financial, legal and administrative conditions in state-owned press organisations, the second law – the new general press and media regulation law – aims to address freedoms and rights in these organisations.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan told the committee last week that the new Press and Media Regulation Law was drafted by experts from the government and the Press Syndicate.

"They were keen that the draft law is balanced and supportive of press freedoms," said Marawan, adding, "Government experts will be keen on attending the committee's hearing sessions on the law, to answer all questions that might be raised."

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