Freedom of expression project

The press in Egyptian legislation

Report prepared by Salah 'Issa
Published in Cairo by CHRLA, the Center for Human Rights Legal Aid, in August 1995 (before Law 96/1996 was passed).


In preparation for drafting a new unified law on the Egyptian press[footnote 1], and revising the laws and provisions governing the press in Egyptian legislation, the idea emerged to compile all current laws and provisions which concern the press and journalists in one document to make this legislation easily available to journalists, lawmakers, and civil servants.

The need for such a compilation was evident over the course of preparations for the workshop on Drafting a Law for Protecting the Freedom of the Press in Egypt, organized by CHRLA.

The first session of the workshop was held on July 20, 1995. Workshop participants helped in gathering all laws and articles related to the press, either directly or indirectly. These included all relevant articles in the Constitution, the laws on Press Authority, Publications, Document Publication, State Employees, Armed Forces Information, Military Judiciary, Political Parties, the State Intelligence Apparatus, Penal Code, and Criminal Procedure Code. All the articles were classified according to subject to facilitate comparisons. The articles were then divided into chapters in line with a prospective unified legislation on the press. The Law on Press Authority, Law no. 148/1980, was considered the most significant law concerning the press and formed the basis of the draft law. Articles of other laws were added to the relevant units and chapters. Articles dealing with issues not mentioned in Law 148/80 were taken from the other previously mentioned laws. These supplementary laws were classified in separate chapters and given titles. The articles were numbered 1–106, and were grouped under the following chapters and parts.

Part I: Press Authority and Journalists' Rights and Obligations

Chapter 1: Press Authority (no. 1–3)
Articles 1–3 of the Law on Press Authority, Law 148/80

Chapter 2: Journalists' Rights and Obligations (no. 4–7)
Articles 4, 5, 6, and 7 of Law 148/80

Chapter 3: Freedom to Obtain Information and Prohibition of Publication (no. 8–21)
Article 8, Law 148/80; Articles 189 to 194, Penal Code; Article 1, Law on Armed Forces Information, Law no. 313/1956; Article 70, Law on State Intelligence Apparatus, Law no. 100/1971; Article 77, Law on State Employees, Law no. 47/1978; Articles 1 and 2, Law on Document Publication, Law no. 121/1975; and Article 10, Presidential Decree on the Central Authority for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Decree no. 2915/1964.

Chapter 4: The Right to Reply and Correction (no. 22–27)
Articles 9, 10, 11 and 12, Law no. 148/80, Articles 23 and 32, Law 121/75.

Part II: Ownership and Publishing of Newspapers (no. 28–93)

Chapter 1: Publishing Newspapers (no. 22–36)
Articles 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, Law 148/80, Article 15, Law 40/77, and Articles 15 and 16, Law 20/36.

Chapter 2: Printing and Circulation of Publications (no. 37–46)
Articles 1–8, 19 and 20, Law 20/36.

Chapter 3: Ownership of Newspapers (no. 47–49)
Articles 19–21, Law 148/80

Chapter 4: Confiscation of Newspapers (no. 50–57)
Articles 9, 10, 21, and 22, Law 20/36, Articles 198, 199, and 200, Penal Code, and Article 17, Law 40/77. These articles authorize the administrative or judicial confiscation of newspapers.

Chapter 5: Offenses Committed by Newspapers (no. 58–87)
Articles 86 bis, 86 bis(a), 80/a, 171 bis(b), 172, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 178 bis, 178 bis 2, 179, 181, 182, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 195, 196, 197, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, Penal Code.

Chapter 6: Public Prosecution and Court Jurisdiction (no. 88–93)
Articles 3, 8, 9, 215, and 216, Criminal Procedure Code; Article 5, Law on the Military Judiciary, Law no. 25/1966.

Part III: National Newspapers (no. 94–106)

Chapter 1: Ownership (no. 94–100)
Articles 22–28, Law 148/80.

Chapter 2: General Assembly (no. 101–102)
Articles 29 and 30, Law 148/80.

Chapter 3: Boards of Directors and Editorial Boards (no. 103–106).
Articles 31–34, Law 148/80.

Part IV: Higher Press Council (no. 107–120)

Chapter 1: Formation of the Higher Press Council (no. 107–110)
Articles 35–38, Law 148/80.

Chapter 2: Competence (no. 111–120)
Articles 39–48, Law 148/80.

Part V: Interim Articles (no. 121–127)
Articles 49–54, Law 148/80.

This compilation includes: all the articles of the Law 148/80; all the articles of Law 20/36, except for the part on penalties (Articles 26–34), and Part 5 on temporary and repealed provisions and articles. Where Law 93/1995 has increased penalties this shall be shown in order to compare the amendments resulting from Law 93/95 with previous legislation.

Relevant articles from the Constitution and law were incorporated into each part. Amendments proposed at the Second General Conference of Journalists or the CHRLA workshop were also added. Proposals based on the draft law on press authority prepared by the Press Codification Committee—a committee formed for this purpose at the end of President Sadat's term—were added, alongside other parts of draft laws that were never passed, which may be beneficial for our purposes.

This work is merely a draft, subject to change according to experts' suggestions toward achieving a comprehensive compilation and accurate classification of all the legislation regulating press affairs. It may also be supplemented with Egyptian experience or the legislation of other countries more committed to human rights. The objective of this work is to generate legislation for the press based on human rights and an objective liberal perspective that achieves the balance between freedom of the press and its responsibilities towards society.

Salah 'Issa

Former member of the Board of the Journalists' Syndicate


1. A series of workshops held at CHRLA, to draft an alternative press legislation in Egypt.

Introduction | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

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