Egypt Journalists Syndicate urges barring jail penalty in publishing cases

Amr Kandil , Sunday 11 Jun 2023

Head of Egypt’s Syndicate of Journalists, Khaled El-Balshy, called for cancelling the jail penalty for publishing cases, in light of the constitution, during the Sunday session of the National Dialogue, which was held to call for issuing the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act.

National Dialogue
Head of the Syndicate of Journalists Khaled El-Balshy speaks during the National Dialogue s session on freedom of information law, 11 June 2023. Extra Live/Still image


In a speech during the National Dialogue session on freedom of information and expression in Egypt, El-Balshy called for amending the pretrial detention articles of the constitution.

The pretrial detention articles “have turned this preventive measure to a penalty imposed on many journalists and opinion holders over the past years,” El-Balshy stressed.

Article 71 of the 2014 constitution stipulates that “no custodial sanction shall be imposed for crimes committed by way of publication or the public nature thereof. Punishments for crimes connected with incitement to violence or discrimination amongst citizens, or impugning the honour of individuals, are specified by law.”

El-Balshy cited the article to affirm the need to cancel jail penalties in publishing cases.

The syndicate’s general assembly also called for amending legislations regulating journalism and media to consolidate the independence of press institutions, facilitate the work of journalists, and remove restrictions imposed on freedom of expression by some laws, he said.

These legislations should be amended to also improve wages of journalism professionals in light of the nature of the profession, the responsibility they shoulder, and growing inflation, El-Balshy added.

“We cannot speak about a law for free circulation of information while the public sphere is governed by legislations that block information and its means of transmission,” El-Balshy said, adding that these legislations also “threaten information publishers with imprisonment and even imprison them in some cases".

The syndicate also calls for releasing the detained journalists and prisoners of conscience who did not engage in violence or incitement crimes, he said.

El-Balshy also urged lifting the ban imposed on many websites and reviewing laws that give the green light for such procedures.

“Most of our legal texts are dominated by the mentality of banning, restricting and censoring,” he said, adding that such mentality can be seen in the laws regulating media, the cybercrime law, the law to fight the spread of epidemics, and the law on publishing false weather information.

El-Balshy called for issuing the information freedom law in line with Article 68 in the constitution, which obligates the state to disclose information, statistics and official documents.

He stressed that the Syndicate of Journalists must attend the discussions leading up to issuing the law, he affirmed.

Issuing Freedom of Information Act

During the session, Ezzat Ibrahim, spokesman of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram Weekly, said the proposed legislation of Freedom of Information Act accords with the Constitution and the National Strategy for Human Rights.

Ibrahim said that 2026 could be a deadline for the issuance of the Freedom of Information Act and its bylaws as it marks the end of the strategy's timeframe.

The NCHR spokesman called on government authorities to allow the flow of information within the framework of the current laws to prepare the grounds for broad legislation that ensures the right of citizens to access information.

Ibrahim urged the authorities to benefit from the experience of other advanced countries in order to produce appropriate and effective bylaws for the Freedom of Information Act.

In May, the NCHR held a workshop to explore the possibility of issuing legislation that allows freedom of information as one of the constitutional rights.

Ibrahim stated that the recommendations of the participants in the workshop will be submitted to the National Dialogue.

Nevine Mosaad, the National Dialogue’s rapporteur of the Human Rights and Public Freedoms Committee, affirmed the need for freedom of information unrelated to national security.


Senate member and journalist Emad El-Din Hussein, a member of the dialogue’s board of trustees, said that the circulation of information is essential for media platforms. 

Hussein warned that the absence of credible information provides a golden opportunity for those who spread rumours.

“The moment information circulates, we will deal the biggest blow to the forces that mislead and spread rumours,” he stressed.

Tarek Radwan, head of the human rights committee in the House of Representatives, said the issuance of the information freedom law protects the rights of citizens and guarantees the protection of privacy.

The law includes guidelines and requirements for institutions and companies that deal with the personal information of individuals; it can also limit the risks of illegal use of this information, and internet fraud, Radwan explained.

Senate member Tarek Saada, the head of Egypt's Media Syndicate, stressed that information should be available to ensure correct decisions in many fields, including economy, politics and human rights.

Renowned journalist and parliamentarian Mostafa Bakry suggested forming a committee from the National Dialogue to prepare the original draft of the information freedom law.

This draft, Bakry said, should be submitted to the parliament and undergo societal dialogue, Bakry added.


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