The session of the Human Rights and Public Liberties Committee of the National Dialogue to discuss ways to promote and support freedom of thought and speech. Photo : The National Dialogue
This came during a meeting on Sunday, which was attended by journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists, to discuss means to strengthen the media and promote freedom of the press and expression in the country.
During the discussions, the Head of the Journalists Syndicate Khaled El-Balshy called for abolishing jail sentences in cases that involve the publishing and dissemination of information.
El-Balshy also urged the government to undertake a thorough review of all pretrial detention laws.
He stressed the need for the immediate release of journalists who are detained or jailed in publishing cases, announcing his intention to present a comprehensive list of all jailed journalists to the authorities for their release.
El-Balshy also called for lifting current restrictions on online websites and the reform of legislation that restricts media work and free dissemination of information.
"There will be no free press and no free society without the free functioning of political parties and unions," he added.
Also at the meeting, General Coordinator of the National Dialogue Diaa Rashwan lauded the recent release of 50 jailed journalists - 32 union members and 18 non-union members – as a positive step.
"More needs to be done to ensure that all Egyptians can freely express their opinions," added Rashwan, who is a former head of the Journalists Syndicate.
"Guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression is a key part of enacting political reform,” Rashwan said.
During the discussion, President of the National Council for Human Rights (NHCR) Moushira Khattab highlighted that the council has also recommended abolishing jail sentences in cases involving freedom of expression in its recent annual report on human rights conditions in the country.
Khattab underscored the need for the government to issue legislation that guarantees free access to information, as stipulated in the constitution, in order to foster a climate of pluralism and diversity of opinion.
Meanwhile, Ezzat Ibrahim, the spokesperson for the NCHR and editor-in-chief of Ahram Online and Al-Ahram Weekly, lauded discussions during the National Dialogue on both freedom of expression in the press and the need to pass a freedom of information act, describing them as a 'health sign."
"Every society needs this discussion, especially in transitional periods,' Ibrahim stressed.
He also emphasized the need to reform and empower traditional mainstream media, including state-owned outlets, amid the rise in the influence of social media as a source of information globally.
Ibrahim also proposed organizing forums – with the participation of representatives of the state and the journalists union - to discuss the future of journalism in Egypt and promote what he described as "good journalism."
Finally, Amira El-Adly, an MP and a member of the Coordination of Youth Parties and Politicians, stressed that freedom of expression was an important demand for the generation that took part in the 25 January and 30 June revolutions.
The country's constitution guarantees freedom of expression and press freedom, stressed El-Adly.
This is also supported by the National Human Rights Strategy, which was adopted by the government in 2021, she noted.
"If we want a true democracy then we must respect the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press and freedom of expression."
"We must also prevent the imprisonment of journalists in publishing cases and pass legislation to guarantee freedom of information," concluded El-Adly.