On October 29, 2023, Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media (SCM) issued a decision to block the website of the Mada Masr news media outlet. The SCM accused Mada Masr of violating articles 6 and 59 of Law No. 180 of 2018, known as the “Media and Press Law.” The SCM also accused the journalists of Mada Masr of violating article 80(d) of the Egyptian Penal Code, which criminalizes the dissemination of false news.
According to the Middle East News Agency, the SCM summoned the chief editor of Mada Masr, Lina Attallah, to investigate the alleged violations of Law No. 180 of 2018.
After questioning Attallah, the SCM suspended the website of Mada Masr for six months. In addition, the SCM filed a complaint before the public prosecution accusing Mada Masr of deceiving the public by disseminating false information and harming Egyptian national security.
Attallah responded to the allegations of violating Law No. 180 of 2018 and disseminating false information by stating that Mada Masr is committed to the internationally recognized media codes of honor. She added that the news outlet adopts strict professional standards when covering the news and current events. According to Attallah, Mada Masr promotes the principle of transparency and citizens’ right to know and obtain information.
The Supreme Council for Media
In accordance with article 211 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, as amended, the SCM’s main responsibility is to regulate the work of the print and digital press. The constitution grants the council the right to suspend the work of any news outlet that violates professional and ethical standards of the press or publishes information that harms Egyptian national security.
Furthermore, the council has the right to investigate any alleged violations committed by news outlets working in Egypt. (Law No. 180 of 2018, art. 94, para. 6.) After questioning the chief editor of the violating media outlet, the council has the authority to suspend the work of the media outlet temporarily or permanently if it finds the allegations to be true. (Art. 94(3).)
Punishing the Spreading of False Information Under the Penal Code
Article 80(d) of Law No. 58 of 1937 on the Penal Code punishes anyone who deliberately spreads false information or rumors about the internal conditions of the country with six months’ to five years’ imprisonment and a fine. This provision does not mention a specific means of disseminating false information — it applies to any means, whether in print or online, that the offender uses.
Violations of the Media and Press Law
As previously mentioned, the SCM accused Mada Masr of violating articles 6 and 59 of Law No. 180 of 2018.
Article 6 of the law prohibits any news media outlet from working in Egypt without obtaining advance permission from the SCM. If a news media outlet begins working in Egypt in violation of article 6, the SMC has the right to suspend the work of the violating news outlet and block its website until it obtains the required permission.
Similarly, article 59 prohibits any website from posting news articles in Egypt without obtaining permission from the SCM. The same provision grants the SCM the authority to block the website until its administrator obtains the necessary permission.
George Sadek, Law Library of Congress
November 14, 2023
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