Newsletter No 31 11 July 2006
News from the Media Scene:
Press Law Amended and Passed in Egypt Despite Press Protests

The Egyptian Parliament approved a new press law on 10 June after amending a controversial article that stipulated jail terms for journalists reporting on private funds of public figures. The day before, at least 24 dailies and weeklies went on a one-day strike while hundreds of journalists gathered in front of the parliament to protest the new law. According to the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm, even the editor of the state-run daily Al Gomhuria, Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, joined his colleagues in the protest.

The protests led Egyptian President Mubarak to order the amendment of article 303 of the new law that stipulated prison terms for journalists questioning the financial integrity of public figures, which was seen as a way to prevent newspapers from investigating and reporting on corruption. Instead of risking jail, journalists may instead face fines of up to 40,000 Egyptian pounds (about USD 7,000). The Egyptian Journalists Union has demanded the complete abolition of article 303 since the amendment “is not enough”.

In a press conference held at the Journalists Union, the editors in chief of the 24 publications said they would continue their protests until every restriction on press freedom has been removed, as well as continue their battle against corruption. Future protests could include a call for a strike among journalists of the official press.

The new law eliminates imprisonment for some publishing crimes but let judges send journalists to jail in other cases, Reuters reported.