Egypt's Parliament approves in principal two new laws to regulate press and media

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 11 Jun 2018

A file photo of Egyptian Parliament (Photo:Reuters)

After approving a draft law on press and media regulation in principle on Sunday, Egypt’s parliament endorsed two complementary laws aiming to establish the activity of the National Press Authority and the National Media Authority.

Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said "as the two laws are subject to revision by the State Council in legal and constitutional terms, a final vote will be postponed to a later date."

According to Osama Heikal, head of Parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities committee, the two additional laws regulate the performance of the two authorities, whose mandate is to supervise national press organizations and the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU).

Heikal said the 55-article law states that the National Press Authority is to be tasked with upgrading the performance of national press organizations by supervising their financial and administrative activities.

"The authority will make a periodical review and evaluation of press organizations’ performance, name chief-editors and chairpeople of boards, and decide whether journalists’ retirement age should be extended from 60 to 65," said Heikal.

Article 7 states that the head of the National Press Authority (NPA) will be selected by the president. "NPA's board will include representatives from the State Council, Ministry of Finance, national press organizations, and two public figures with proven experience in journalism," reads the article.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal stressed that the law does not aim to privatise national press organizations.

"When we were drafting the Constitution in 2014, we had two options: either to privatise state-owned press and media organizations, or to place them under the supervision of the upper parliamentary Shura Council," said Abdel-Aal.

Instead, he continued "we came up with the idea of setting up the National Press Authority, to be independently responsible for supervising these organizations."

Abdel-Aal's words came in response to concerns raised by independent MP Mostafa Bakri, who said that article 35 of the law stipulates that the board of a national press organization should include 7 journalists and 10 public figures, fearing that this article paves the way for privatization.

Bakri also stated his opinion with regards to the question of journalists’ retirement age, asserting that it "should be extended to be 65 as is the case for judges and other professions."

In response, Heikal indicated that the decision on retirement age belonged to the National Press Authority. "Upon a request from the board of the national press organization, the Authority will decide if a journalist is highly qualified or not, and so whether they deserve to continue working until 65," said Heikal.

Abdel-Aal said the law in general will be referred to the State Council to be revised in legal and constitutional terms. "This will also include revising article 5 which deals with the retirement age of journalists at national press organizations," said Abdel-Aal.

Meanwhile, Parliament also approved a law on the National Media Authority. Abdel-Aal said the 37-article law will be referred to the state council to be revised. "The final approval on the above two laws will be postponed to later date," said Abdel-Aal.

The law will regulate the activities and performance of the state-owned ERTU. "It will also include online websites affiliated with ERTU," said Heikal.

The National Media Authority will be responsible for supervising ERTU to upgrade the performance of its affiliated television channels and radio stations.

Parliament approved a new law regulating the press and media on Sunday. The law, comprising 108 articles, regulates the performance of all forms of press and media outlets in Egypt, and also governs the activities of the Higher Council of Media Regulation.


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