FILE - Soliman Wahdan, deputy Parliament speaker FILE - Soliman Wahdan, deputy Parliament speaker

New draft law to impose tougher penalties for spreading rumors

Fri, Mar. 8, 2019
CAIRO - 8 March 2019: Soliman Wahdan, deputy Parliament speaker, said that he is working to introduce a draft to put an end to rumors issued by some people and groups to destabilize the Egyptian state.

He said that these "terrorist" groups assign a number of research centers to study rumors and spread them across the country.

"We need to issue an urgent legislation to face the information warfare the outlawed groups and individuals play with," Wahdan said in a statement.

He added that social media platforms and some media channels are used by terrorist groups with the aim of spreading chaos and inciting strife between the Egyptian people and their government.

The planned draft law will impose heavy penalties on people spreading rumors about the country's economic situation and military institutions, with the aim of destabilizing the state, he said, adding that in case rumors resulted in the death or injury of citizens, the violators will, according to the law, receive tougher punishment.

The draft law also calls for establishing a governmental body that is linked to the Egyptian Cabinet to spot rumors and issue statements to respond to them once they emerge and spread, according to Wahdan.

The new watchdog will also monitor the media channels that spread inaccurate information and contribute to spreading rumors, Wahdan added.

According to article no. 188 of the penal code, those who spread fake news, statements, or rumors, would be sentenced to one year in prison at most, and would have to pay a minimum of LE 5,000 ($286) and a maximum of LE 20,000 ($1,145) as a fine. They can also be punished by only one of these two penalties.

In July 2018, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi warned against false news clarifying that more than 21,000 rumors have been propagated over a period of three months. The president also asked the citizens to be cautious of calls that inherently aim at the collapse of the Egyptian state.

At the end of 2018, Cabinet's media center issued an information report on rumors attempting to fail the state's constructive efforts throughout the year, revealing that education was the most targeted by rumors, obviously due to the radical changes it is undergoing under the new system.

According to the official infographics, the education sector was targeted by 21.5 percent of rumors in 2018, followed by the ration sector that got 17 percent of the rumors, while 15.3 percent went to the economy sector.

Anti-cybrecrime law

In May, Parliament initialed a cybercrime bill aiming at combating the illegal use of computers and information networks.

The Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law defines commonly used concepts such as “websites, traffic data, digital directory, personal statements and national security."

On August 18, Sisi ratified the anti-cybercrime law, allowing authorities, through a judge, to order the blocking of websites that "constitute a threat" to the state or publish fake news as well as jail or fine those who run them.

The law imposes jail terms of up to five years and fines ranging between LE 10,000 and LE 20 million ($560 and $1.1m).

According to the law, people whose social media accounts have more than 5,000 followers could be placed under supervision.

The law authorizes authorities to suspend or block any personal account which "publishes or broadcasts fake news or anything (information) inciting violating the law, violence or hatred."

The danger of fake news nowadays lies in their ability to spread rapidly over the internet through social media platforms and websites of high traffic.

Personal data protection

In August, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat announced the Cabinet’s approval of a draft law aiming to protect personal data.

According to official reports, the law protects citizens’ “fully or partially electronically treated personal data."

In a press statement following the meeting, Talaat said that the law prohibits gathering or processing individuals’ personal data or spreading them by any means without the permission of the concerned individuals, except in cases authorized legally.

Talaat affirmed the country’s keenness to attract international and regional investments in the field of database centers and to establish legally protected data centers.
 
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