Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New press law passes

The new press law, which so many journalists turned out to denounce on Sunday, passed in a voice vote, as expected. In a last second act of kindness, however, President Hosni Mubarak told parliament that they should erase the part of the new law that would imprison journalists for revealing the financial activities of members of parliament. Another part of the law which was erased before passage, according to the newspaper The Egyptian Today, was the line that threatened jail time for journalists who insult foreign heads of state. In an act of protest, several independent publications decided not to sell their papers on Sunday. I discovered this when I went to the press stand and couldn't get The Egyptian Today. I only figured out it was a political statement and not evidence of unprofessionalism when I read Ben's article on IRIN (see link in previous post).

For more details on this story, check out this article .

Despite the revisions, the press syndicate here is promising to continue fighting the law. I still haven't worked out the exact process by which bills get introduced and passed, but it's clear that Mubarak has enormous power, at least within his own majority party. His National Democratic Party has spent the last week accusing journalists of blackmail and denouncing their supporters as traitors, supporting the new bill and all of its provisions unanimously. In a surprise announcement, Mubarak told parliament of the changes he wanted. Immediately, every member of Mubarak's party said they supported his changes. The speaker of the parliament said that Mubarak had 'taught an important lesson to the government.'


At 9:20 AM, Blogger Maggie said...

This is interesting especially in light of what is happening in the U.S. with members of Congress calling for journalists to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for publishing so-called classified informtion. At least in the U.S. we can hope that for now, no such prosecutions will take place and the press is still generally free.


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