CAIRO – 12 June 2018: The Parliament approved on Monday the two government-drafted laws aimed to regulate the National Press Authority (NPA) and the National Media Authority (NMA).
The two draft laws are among the three draft laws submitted by the Cabinet to regulate Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation(HCMR), the National Media Authority(NPA), and the National Press Authority(NMA).
The Parliament discusses a separate law for each of HCMR, NPA and NMA, instead of one law regulating the three bodies.
Head of Parliament’s Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, Osama Heikal, said on Sunday during the plenary session that the draft laws cover all aspects of media and press activities in Egypt, and do not include any articles that could send journalists to jail in publication offences.
FILE: Osama Heikal, Chairman of the Committee on Information, Culture and Antiquities in the House of Representatives.
In the same context, Egyptian Parliament speaker, Ali Abdel Aal, said the laws were drafted three years ago by a committee formed of experts from the government and the Press Syndicate, but a lot of debate raised in media and press circles surrounding the draft laws.
Parliament issued Institutional Regulation of the Press and Media law in December 2016, which establishes and regulates the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, the National Press Authority and the National Media Authority's activities.
However, due to the gap that emerged as a result of the rapid progress of technological development in the media, press and social media, the Joint Committee has separated each body and drafted an independent law for each of them.
Hence, three new laws will automatically lead to the elimination of the Institutional Regulation of the Press and Media law.
Draft law to regulate the National Media Authority
After being approved in the Parliament, it was referred to the State Council’s Legislative and Fatwa Committee to consider it.
In January 2017, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a law establishing a syndicate for audio-visual media personnel, following the Parliament’s approval. The Media Syndicate is responsible for regulating audio-visual media practices, as well as defending its members.
The draft law defines the audio, visual or electronic media as every radio, television or electronic broadcast that reaches the public.
The National Media Authority is an independent authority with a legal personality, which aims to run the state-owned media institutions to provide the services of broadcast, television, radio, and press production and other related engineering services.
Additionally, the authority must develop the assets of the state-owned media institutions and guarantee their independence, impartiality and commitment to undertake professional, administrative and economic performance as well as national security requirements.
The draft law reads that it shall take action to ensure the access of media institutions’ services in a fair way across Egypt, protect the right of consumers through providing them with highest standards of media services, advance the professional and technical levels of media services’ providers and guarantee that the media institutions are committed to the regulations and standards of the media content set by State Council.
The Article 5 of the draft law stipulates that the NMA shall appoint the head of the state-owned media institutions and websites and dismiss them if they breach their duties or they do not meet the conditions of the appointment.
The authority shall set plans and programs to run and implement the projects of broadcast and visual transmission systems and carry out the maintenance ofaudiovisual studios and news.
It shall undertake studies and statistics on the need of foreign markets from the production of state-owned institutions and the advertising process that serves the marketing of this production.
It has the right to broadcast or re-broadcast sports tournaments in Egypt and to allow others to do so in exchange for a proportion to be agreed upon provided that it is not less than 10 percentof the right of broadcasting.
Draft law to regulate Press National Authority
"The National Press Authority shall issue a decision to dismiss the chairman of the Board of Directors, the editor-in-chief or a member or more of the appointed members of the board if they breach their duties or they do not meet the condition of appointment,” according to the Article 52.
National Press Authority Chairman Karam Gabr - File photo
Article 27 refers that the employees at the National Press Authority shall be committed to maintain the confidentiality of information and documents obtained to carry out their duties and not to discloseor use them for purposes other than those assigned to them.
Those who violate Article 27 shall be punished with a fine not less than LE 100,000 and not exceeding LE 500,000.
Draft law on Press and Media Regulation
The 127-article draft law on press and media regulation is the major law regulating media and press businesses and the Higher Council for Media Regulation,while the other two draft laws are affiliated to it.
The law implements Article 65 of the constitution, which guarantees the freedom of speech.
Article 19 of the draft law prohibits media outlets, including online websites, from publishing or broadcasting false news or news that incite violence, hatred, discrimination, racism, intolerance and blasphemy. The draft law includes personal websites or online blogs with at least 5,000 followers.
logos of social media platforms- Creative Commons via Flicker- Blogtrepreneur -RESIZED
Though this growth in digital advertising draws reasonable comfort for the industry of digital marketing, it fails to compensate the downturn across the board.
This growth negatively affects the print news industry, which is moving toward paid online subscriptions in an attempt to escape from the domination of tech giants.
In this regard, the draft law includes an article to impose taxes on advertisements posted on social media websites and Google.
The Parliament passed the chapter two on "practicing the media institution for its activities" inthe draft law regulating the press and media. One of the chapter’s articles reads that it is not permissible for a website to bring advertisements from the Egyptian market if it is not subscribed in the Supreme Council and subject to the provisions of Law No. 11 of 1991 on tax evasion.
Article 59 of the draft law stipulates that no media outlet or website shall be established or operated, prior to obtaining a license from the Supreme Council.
Request to establish or operate a media outlet or a website shall be submitted to the Supreme Council, which shall consider the request within a period not exceeding 90 days of the application filed for a return not exceeding LE 250,000 for a media outlet and LE 50,000 for a website, as referred by Article 60.
The new bill regulating media and press provides journalists with legal protection, Heikal, president of the Parliamentarian Committee of Culture and Information said on June 9.
The law stipulates that whoever attacks a journalist physically, while on duty, shall be punished by a jail term and a fine of no less than LE 10,000 and no more than LE 20,000.
“Under the new law, house searches of journalists’ homes and press offices are banned unless they are conducted with a prosecution-ordered warrant,” Heikal further stated, adding that the law bans all forms of censorship, confiscation and closure of newspapers and firmly states that journalists must not be questioned for their opinion and must not be forced to disclose the sources of their information.
Media agencies and organizations will have to provide labor contracts to journalists working for them and to set minimum salaries for them alongside other employees, he added.