Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fears Rise Over New Press Law

Egypt's parliament has passed revisions to the controversial 1996 Press Law. The original bill put into law some of the most oppressive practices frequently used to harrass and silence the independent press. Journalists were sent to jail, brought up on spurious libel charges and limited in their ability to launch new papers.

The new revision of the bill hasn't improved things. One provision was moved that would could jail reporters and editors for reporting on the finances of public officials (investigation corruption is one of the key targets for opposition press and one of the things that is most likely to get them into trouble). However, other elements of the bill threaten reporters with jail for criticism of government officials.

Here's an excerpt from a news story about the legislation from the Arab Reform Bulletin:

"The Egyptian parliament’s controversial amendments to the 1996 press and publications law, passed on July 10, do not abolish prison sentences for journalists, despite protests by human rights activists and journalists. Editors-in-chief of some 25 Egyptian independent and party newspapers suspended the publication for one day on July 9 to protest the government-drafted bill and hundred of journalists protested outside the People’s Assembly."

The article further notes legislative changes coming out of the recent dispute with Egyptian judges:

"The People’s Assembly passed a new law of the judiciary on June 26, following a lengthy controversy between the Judges Club and the government. The new law includes two of the Judges Club’s demands: granting the judiciary budgetary independence from the Ministry of Justice and separating the office of the Public Prosecutor from the Ministry. The Public Prosecutor, however, will remain a presidential appointee. But the draft law ignores the judges’ demands that members of the Supreme Judicial Council be elected rather than appointed by the state. On July 2, several judicial officials considered close to the government were appointed to senior positions, including Maher Abdel Wahed (former Public Prosecutor) as head of the Supreme Constitutional Court and Moqbel Shaker as head of the Court of Cassation and Supreme Judicial Council."


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