Thursday, July 13, 2006

New Egyptian Press Law Restricts Free Speech

The Egyptian government should take a close look at its new law imposing curbs on what journalists can write about in that country, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack at a briefing July 11. “It is essential to have a free press as part of the political dialogue within a country that is wrestling with issues of political as well as economic reform,” McCormack said. The law, which the Egyptian parliament passed July 10, imposes fines on members of the press who criticize the government.A last-minute intervention by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak removed a provision on prison terms for criticizing the financial integrity of public figures, but journalists still can be jailed for stories defaming Egyptian officials and foreign heads of state.“We are strong supporters of freedom of the press, in Egypt as well as elsewhere,” McCormack said.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack
In published reports, Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization, said, “Criticizing public officials should not be a criminal offense at all, much less one punishable by prison terms.” Twenty-five independent newspapers in Egypt went on strike July 9 to protest the proposed legislation. Several independent newspapers welcomed Mubarak’s intervention to change the legislation but vowed to continue fighting for additional changes that would eliminate the threat of prison sentences for journalists.