Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The New Media and Press laws in Egypt : The end of social media by law

There are lots of economic and political updates and decisions that have taken place in Egypt in the past ten days and I am just trying to keep up with those decisions because they are all important and will affect Egypt on the short and long run.

I will start with the new controversial media and press laws which were approved in principle last week.
Last week the Egyptian House of Representatives approved in principal three draft laws to regulated media and press in the country.

Originally a draft law presented by the government “by Sherif Ismail’s cabinet”, the Media committee in the parliament decided to divide it into three separate draft laws.

The laws are regulating the three bodies currently regulating press and media in Egypt.
We got the Supreme Council of media “SCM” that regulates Private TV and radio channels as well private-owned newspapers and websites, the National Media authority “NMA” which regulates the activities of Egyptian Radio and TV Union “ERT” and National Press Authority “NPA” which regulates state-owned newspapers and press institutions according to the 2014 Constitution.

Head of Media committee Osama Heikal told journalists that those laws include unprecedented guarantees freedom of journalism and media in Egypt.

I could not believe what 201SCAF’s information minister said in his meeting with the journalists.
The Egyptian foreign ministry issued an infogram calling the new “Egyptian law regulating media and press” as a victory of freedom of expression highlighting the Pro-Freedom of expression articles in that law or laws.



I can’t deny that those articles but something is not right indeed, there must be a catch in those laws. This is not administration or government that supports freedom of expression or thought as we have seen.
Well, it turns out that those laws got articles that will give the state a true full control of the Media and Social media.
For example, the law of supreme council of Media “SCM” has got very alarming articles about the social media.
Article No.19 stipulates that social media accounts on Facebook or Twitter and blogs that got more than 5,000 subscribers or followers fall under the law !!
Closing the current curtains on the current margin of freedom by Doaa El-Adl
Closing the current curtains on
 the current margin of freedom by Doaa El-Adl 

Yes, you read right.
Article No.19
also stipulates too that newspapers, websites and TV channels are prohibited to publish or air fake news or any incitement to break the law to spread hatred or violence or spread discrimination or racism or radicalism or attack against monotheistic religions or beliefs.

Article No.19 gives the right to SCM to suspend or block the media outlet including blogs and social media networks’ accounts and pages with more than 5,000 subscribers or followers if they violate what is mentioned in the above paragraph.
As you can the article gives the right to the SCM to control the social media in Egypt, the last uncensored media medium where people can express their thoughts as well news freely away from censorship.

The article is also vague as I do not know who will determine news is fake or not. For instance, social media is currently being used to cover the humanitarian condition of people in North Sinai, especially in Rafah and Al-Arish during Sinai 2018 military operation.

The Egyptian government says the locals are not suffering while those alleged locals say online that they are suffering from displacement and ill-treatment.

With such law, citizen journalists can lose their blogs and social media accounts and pages for reporting the other version of a story which the government does not include in its narrative.
If you think that’s bad, wait for more.

Article No.60 reads that if anyone wants to have a news website then he or she must present a website license application to SCM as well to pay LE 50,000 as application fees.
SCM will look into the application request within 90 days following the admission.
Article No.61 says the website license is for five years and it can be renewed by a request to SCM 6 months before the end of the license.
Many Egyptian News websites do not have that sum of money to license their websites in the first place not to mention what’s about all that red tape !!!

Article No. 67 says that websites, as well as TV channels and radio channels, cannot broadcast or publish their material on mobile phones except after the approval of SCM !!

It is worth to mention on the same day, the Parliament agreed to add an article to the taxation and customs law in Egypt to collect taxes from the revenues of Facebook ads and Google AdSense.
The taxation authority believes it can get at least one billion Egyptian pounds from the taxes on Facebook ads and Google AdSense
Since 2005 or 2008 to be accurate following the role played Facebook in organizing 6 April strike, the Egyptian regime has been trying tame social media in Egypt and I think it has got finally the opportunity.

There are other articles that are causing as well anger, alarm and controversy among state-owned newspapers journalists and employees surprisingly.

Article No.35 and Article No.37 of the National Press Authority “NPA” law gives the authority supervising the state-owned press institutions more powers while at the same time, it reduced the number of journalists in the board of those institutions.
The head of Egypt’s journalists' syndicate Abdel Mohsen Salama said that the Parliament approved in principle the two new laws without sending the final version of the draft laws before passing them so the syndicate could discuss them and send back its remarks.
Salama adds that the parliament sent only the first version of the draft law and the syndicate had its remarks on it.
According to the 2014 Egyptian Constitution’s article No.77, the opinion of unions and syndicates shall be sought on draft legislation pertaining to it.

The pro-regime journalist stated in his statements to Tahrir website that the two laws got pros and cons. Salama believes that among its pros is the taxation of Facebook and google ads.
At least 400 Egyptian journalists from the Egyptian journalists' syndicate’s general assembly have expressed their rejection and signed a petition against those laws.

According to that petition, the final press and media draft laws were not sent to the Journalists Syndicate to discuss them and issue its opinion about it in accordance with Egyptian Constitution’s article No.77.

Aside from calling other journalist members of the syndicate to sign the petition, those journalists are calling their syndicate’s board to meet.
We will see what happens

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