Freedom of expression project

After the defeat of Law 93/95—
The current state of freedom of the press in Egypt

A report published in Cairo by CHRLA, the Center for Human Rights Legal Aid, June 1996


1. The 'penal approach' in Egyptian legislation; 2. The discrepancy between penalty and crime; 3. The persistence of penalties in crimes of insult, blemish and instigation... the undefined description

4. The feasibility of provisional detention in cases of insult to the president of the state; 5. The legislature's maintenance of the amendment introduced by law 93/95 to article 302, clause 2, Penal Code;

6. The absolute illegality of the violation of people's private lives as well as restricting the right to cover the private lives of those in charge of public service; 7. Allowing the trial of journalists before military courts; 8. Authorizing press censorship under the state of emergency; 9. The suspension and closure of newspapers

10. Expanding the ban on publication, obtaining news and restricting the freedom to ascertain information; 11. Persistence of restrictions imposed on the right to release newspapers ; 12. State-owned national newspapers; 13. The Higher Press Council - a government council

Conclusions and recommendations


Introduction

On June 16, 1996, the People's Assembly approved a draft law (Law no. 95/1996) concerning the amendment of a number of articles of the Penal Code related to publishing offenses. The president of the republic ratified the draft law and it was published in the Official Gazette on June 30, 1996.

On June 18, 1996, the PA approved the Law on the Regulation of the Press, Law no. 96/1996. The president ratified this law and it was published in the Official Gazette on June 30, 1996.

The two laws together amended the legal framework governing the press in Egypt, as follows:

1. The amendment to Article 188/2 of the Penal Code made by the 'Press Assassination' Law, Law no. 93/1995, was repealed. The article originally stipulated a prison sentence of at least five years, considering the offense a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, together with a fine of between LE10,000 and LE20,000, in the event of a publication intentionally or subsequently resulting in "damage" to the national economy or interests.

The length of prison sentence now becomes a maximum of one year. The fine ranges between LE5,000 and LE20,000—less than Law 93/95, but still much higher than the fines inflicted before Law 93/95, which were between LE20 and LE500.

The amendment gives the judge a choice of penalty, as oppose to Law 93/95 which inflicted both a fine and imprisonment for those found guilty.

The principle that 'the accused acted in good-faith' is reestablished as a basis for acquitting a defendant accused of any of the offenses pertaining to this article.

Phrases from Law 93/95, Article 102, are added to the new law, such as, "publishing false or biased news, data, rumors, or inflammatory propaganda … where such disturbs public order, spreads terror …."

2. Article 303 of the Penal Code is amended so that prison sentences for libel-related offenses are limited to a maximum of one year (with a minimum of 24 hours). Law 93/95 increased the sentence to between one and three years. Prior to Law 93/95 the sentence was up to two years.

The amendment sets the fine at between LE2,500 and LE7,500. Law 93/95 set the minimum at LE5,000 and the maximum at LE15,000. Before May 27, 1995, fines were between LE20 and LE200.

Clause 2 of this article concerns prison sentences in cases of libeling a public official, government employee, or representative, or a person appointed to perform a public service. It reduces the prison sentence to a period not exceeding two years (with a minimum of 24 hours). Law 93/95 stipulated a period up to three years. Prior to that, the sentence was a minimum of two years and a maximum of five. The fine, in such cases, is reduced to between LE5,000 and LE10,000, instead of a minimum of LE10,000 and a maximum of LE15,000.

3) The prison sentences in Articles 172 (inciting felonies), 176 (inciting hatred or contempt of a particular group of people), 178/3, 178 bis2 (violating public morality), 179 (offending the president of the republic), 181 (vilification of the monarchy or president of a foreign state), and Article 309/1 bis(a) of the Penal Code are reduced to a maximum of one year (with a minimum sentence of 24 hours). Law 93/95 stipulated a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum of three years.

4) Prison sentences stipulated in Articles 178 (violating public morality), 184 (offending the People's Assembly, army, courts of law, or any public authority or interest), 185 (defamation of a public official, government employee, or representative, or a person appointed to perform public service), 186 (compromising the reputation of a judge in relation to a court case in progress), 189 (publishing details of sub judice civil or criminal court cases or details of court cases of offenses stated in Chapter 14, Book 2 and Chapter 7, Book 3 of the Penal Code), 190, 193 (publishing the discussions of confidential sessions of the People's Assembly), and 194 of the Penal Code are reduced to the periods which existed prior to Law 93/95. Fines are maintained at a minimum of LE5,000 and a maximum of LE10,000 in offenses related to Articles 178, 182 (offending the representative of a foreign state), 184, 190, and 193, Penal Code.

5) The minimum prsion sentence for offenses related to Article 308, Penal Code(contesting an individual's honor, defamation of an individual's family and infringement of privacy) is reduced from two years to six months.

6) Law 96/96, Article 41, makes preventive detention illegal in publishing offenses (except in the case of violating Article 179, Penal Code). Law 93/95 repealed Article 135, Code of Criminal Procedures, which prohibits preventive detention in publishing offenses, as well as Article 67, Law on the Journalists' Syndicate, Law no. 76/1970, which absolutely prohibits the preventive detention of journalists in publishing offenses.

7) Law 96/96, Articles 8, 9, 10, and 11, state the right of all journalists to obtain information, data, and news at source, and to publish it. They also prevent any restrictions to access of information and guarantee equal access to all newspapers.

8) Law 96/96, Article 12, states a penalty, which is equivalent to that applied in cases of insulting or hurting a civil servant in Articles 133, 136, 137/1, Penal Code, to whoever insults or harms a journalist in the course of work.

9) Law 96/96 grants journalists, for the first time, the right to terminate an employment contract without losing the right to compensation on the grounds of conscience.

10) Law 96/96, Article 32, draws a distinction between journalism and advertising. The law prevents journalists from commisioning advertisements for their newspaper, or putting their name to an advertisement, and receiving money or recompense in-kind as a result of such acts.

11) Law 96/96, Article 30, prohibits journalists or newspapers from receiving donations, aid, or special advantages from foreign entities, in order to ensure the independence of the press.

Even following the recent amendments to the Penal Code, i.e., Law 95/96, as well as the amendments to Law 96/96, which repeal some of the most restrictive provisions of the notorious Law 93/95, a look at the laws which are still in force reveals that an atmosphere hostile to the press still prevails in Egypt :

The Law on Publications, Law no. 20/1936, amended by Law no. 375/1956 and Law no. 97/1992.

The Penal Code, Law no. 58/1937 and its various amendments, including those of Law no. 29/1982, Law no. 199/1983, Law no. 97/1992, Law 93/95, and finally Law 95/96.

The Law on the State Intelligence Apparatus, Law no. 100/1971, amended by Law no. 1/1989.

The Law on Armed Forces Information, Law no. 313/1956, amended by Law no. 14/1967.

The Law on Political Parties, Law no. 40/1977, amended by Law no. 36/1979 and by Law no. 144/1980.

The Code of Criminal Procedures, Law 150/1950, and its amendments.

Provisions governing the Central Authority for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), civil servants, and al-Azhar employees.

The Law on the Regulation of the Press, Law 96/96.


Introduction | Parts 1-3 | Parts 4-5 | Parts 6-9 | Parts 10-13 | Conclusions

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