(Aug. 6, 2018) In a plenary session on July 15, 2018, the Egyptian Parliament approved amendments to Law No. 92 of 2016 regulating the work of the National Press Authority, the National Media Authority, and the Supreme Media Council. (Law No. 92 of 2016, AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH, vol. 51 (duplicate), 24 Dec. 2016 (in Arabic).) The speaker of the Parliament has announced that the Parliament has referred the new amendments to the State Council (the Administrative Court) to review their constitutionality. (Gamal Essam El-Din, Egypt’s Parliament Approves Amendments to 3 Controversial Media and Press Laws, AHRAM ONLINE (July 15, 2018).
National Press Authority
Under the new amendments to title III (“National Press Authority”) of Law No. 92 of 2016 (Law No. 92 of 2016, tit. III, AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH, vol. 51 (duplicate), 24 Dec. 2016 (in Arabic)), the board of directors of each national journalistic institution would have the right to determine the retirement age of each journalist on a case-by-case basis. According to Osama Heikal, the head of the Parliament’s Media Committee, the retirement age of a journalist could be extended to 65 years in special cases.
Additionally, it would be forbidden for the National Press Authority to accept gifts or grants, though it could accept donations after consulting with the security apparatuses. Furthermore, the new amendments require that 1% of the revenue of well-funded public journalistic institutions be used to fund other national journalistic institutions that lack funding. (Amr Mohamed Kandil, Amendments to New Law Emphasize Media Persons’ Rights, Limits, EGYPT TODAY (July 16, 2018).)
National Media Authority
Under the new amendments to title IV (“National Media Authority”) of Law No. 92 of 2016 (Law No. 92 of 2016, tit. IV, AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH, vol. 51 (duplicate), 24 Dec. 2016 (in Arabic)), the Authority would be granted the right to rebroadcast all kinds of sport tournaments taking place in Egypt. According to the new amendments, the National Media Authority would have the right to allow other media outlets to broadcast those sports tournaments for a fee. (Id.)
Supreme Media Council
The new amendments cover articles 4, 5, 12, 16, 19, 29, and 54 under title II (“Supreme Media Council”) of Law No. 92 of 2016. (Law No. 92 of 2016, tit. II, AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH, vol. 51 (duplicate), 24 Dec. 2016 (in Arabic).) The modified article 4 stipulates that the Supreme Media Council has the right, for reasons of national security, to prevent the dissemination of publications, newspapers, media, or advertising materials issued or broadcast from either inside or outside Egypt if they contain any information that disturbs the public peace or promotes discrimination, violence, racism, hatred, or intolerance. (Sarah El-Sheikh, Will Egypt’s New Media Law Bring Back Objectives of Ministry of Information?, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (July 12, 2018).) Article 5 provides the Supreme Media Authority with the power to deny an operating license or permit to a media outlet or to close the outlet down if it promotes religious discrimination. (Id.) Article 12 stipulates that journalists or media personnel have the right to attend conferences and public meetings, conduct meetings with citizens, and take pictures of public places after obtaining the necessary permits from the Supreme Media Council. (Id.) Article 16 stipulates that journalists cannot be fired from their jobs until there is an investigation that proves their wrongdoing. The media institution where the fired journalist works must notify the Press Syndicate of the reasons for the journalist’s dismissal. Within thirty days of the firing, the Press Syndicate has the right to attempt to reconcile the two parties. (Id.) Article 19 grants the Supreme Media Council the authority to suspend any personal website, blog, or social media account that has 5,000 followers or more if it posts fake news, promotes violence, or spreads hateful views. (Id.) Article 29 stipulates that journalists cannot be subjected to pretrial detention except in cases where they have incited violence or promoted discrimination against citizens. (Id.) Finally, article 54 authorizes the Supreme Media Council, for reasons of public interest, to approve the establishment of media outlets whose budgets are lower than what is required by law. (Id.)
Reaction to the Amendments
Some members of the Press Syndicate, such as Saad Abdel Hafez, have voiced their objections to the amendments. They argue that the amendments impose restrictions on journalistic work and grant the Supreme Media Council unlimited powers. Abdel Hafez also claims that the new amendments transform exceptional bans on publishing specific news and temporary gag orders into permanent ones. (Mostafa Mohie & Rania al-Abd, State Council, Journalists Syndicate Condemn ‘Unconstitutional’ Media Bill, MADA MASR (July 12, 2018).)
On the other hand, the head of the Egyptian National Press Authority, Karam Gabr, in an official statement, rejected the claims that the Authority aims at dominating press institutions and defended the new amendments, stating that they are compatible with article 71 of the 2014 Constitution. (Egypt’s National Press Authority Defends New Press Law, AHRAM ONLINE (July 3, 2018).)