The legislative section of the State Council has completed reviewing the new laws regulating press and media outlets, reaching a conclusion that they suspect the unconstitutionality of some articles of the new laws, according to a statement issued on Sunday.
The State Council’s legislative section stressed on the removal of the requirement of journalists or media personnel to obtain the necessary permits to exercise their rights from Article 12 of the law, which states that journalists or media personnel have the right to attend conferences and public meetings, conduct meetings with citizens, and photograph in unprohibited public places after obtaining the necessary permits.
Moreover, the statement also pointed to the suspicion of the existence of unconstitutionality in Article 6, which states, “it is not permitted to establish websites in Egypt or to administer or manage offices or branches of websites operating outside the country without obtaining the necessary permits in accordance with the rules and conditions.”
According to the statement, this article in its current form is unconstitutional, as it does not specify the rules and requirements governing the granting of such licences, which contradicts the main purpose of the law to protect press and media freedom.
Regarding Article 26, which prohibits journalists and media personnel from getting paid for advertisements, and in case of being guilty of such action, are obliged to refund what they received, the council believes that this article violates the constitution, which protects private finances from nationalisation or confiscation without a court order.
Furthermore, Article 54 is discriminatory and violates the principle of equality, according to the statement. The article regulates the value of the capital of companies licenced for television or radio broadcast, stating that the State Council may, for reasons of public interest, lower the capital requirement beyond these values.
The State Council’s legislative section added that the new laws lack the method or instrument, whereby taxes and fees are collected from the media, websites, or licence fees for rebroadcasting from and to Egypt, and well as taxes on advertising in websites, blogs, and electronic accounts on social networking sites, which should be included in the law, in line with the constitution.
Moreover, another constitutional defect was that the draft law did not include any text allowing for appeal against the decisions of the Supreme Media Council in the Administrative Judiciary Court, in case of the closure of websites established in Egypt or offices and branches of websites that operate from abroad, without prior permission from the council.
Osama Heikal, head of the parliament’s media and culture committee, which prepared the draft law, said that the report of the State Council will be considered and that the remarks received are currently being discussed by the parliament’s secretariat general to remove any unconstitutionalities.
He added that the parliament will not allow the emergence of an unconstitutional law.