Egypt increases pressure over press freedom under new law

Journalists who publish “false” reports will be jailed and deported if new law approved

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Egypt may take legal action against journalist who claimed to report “false” military tolls in attacks and “contradict official statements” if a new anti-terrorism law is approved, officials told AFP on Sunday.

The journalists may also be deported and put under house arrest.

President Abdel Fattah al Sisi is expected to approve the law within days, which has already been approved by the cabinet.

Majority of the Egyptian media has supported the government’s decision, but the country’s press syndicate has condemned the law and called it as “new restrictions on press freedoms.”

"This is a dangerous article that violates the constitution," said the union in a statement.

"It violates the reporter's right to seek information from various sources... it allows the executive authorities to act as censors, and the judges of truth," it said.

Article 33 of the draft law stipulates a minimum two-year sentence for "reporting false information on terrorist attacks that contradicts official statements," published some Egyptian newspapers.

The Justice Minister Ahmed alZind said the law was prompted in part by coverage of ISIS attacks against Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday.

According to a military spokesman, 21 soldiers and more than 100 militants have been killed in the attacks following clashes, after the security forces said a large number of soldiers had been killed.

The Egyptian government accuses foreign media of reporting higher death toll, exaggerating troop casualties.

"The day of the attack in Sinai some sites published 17, then 25, then 40, then 100 dead," the Justice Minister said.

He added that such reports affect the "morale" of the country.

"There was no choice but to impose some standards," he said.

"The government has the duty to defend citizens from wrong information."

The government has been blamed for applying pressure against press freedoms over last two years.

Reporters faced "unprecedented threats" in Egypt, with a record number behind bars, mostly for links to Morsi's blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood, said the Committee to Protect Journalists in a report last month.

Attacks against the Egyptian security forces have increased since Sisi seized power.

Egypt has been battling an armed insurgency in the Sinai since the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was deposed in a military coup in July 2013, which has seen hundreds of police and army officials killed.

Morsi was forced to step down following a military coup and a crackdown on his supporters, including the bloody dispersal of sit-in protests at Cairo’s Rabia and Nahda Squares which saw around 900 Muslim Brotherhood supporters killed.

TRTWorld and agencies