IFJ Says New Egyptian Media Law Does Not Protect Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said a new Egyptian media law does not do enough to protect journalists from prosecution for reporting stories that are critical of the government.

“Even after last minutes changes were made by President Mubarak, this law falls short of full protection for journalists,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “The President has pledged to protect journalists but this legislation still makes it dangerous for Egyptian media to take its rightful role as a government watchdog without fear of retaliation.”

On Monday, Parliament passed the law after President Hosni Mubarak made changes that lessen the number of reasons journalists can be incarcerated. The law still allows for journalists to be jailed under certain circumstances, including for reports that criticise top officials or foreign heads of state. It also increases fines for those convicted of libel.

On Sunday, hundreds of Egyptian journalists held a one-day strike to protest a draft of the new law. In a strong show of solidarity, 28 opposition and independent newspapers and online publications did not put out their Sunday edition. Journalists turned out in a mass protest in Cairo, where the Parliament gave preliminary approval to the bill on Saturday.

“We are not saying that is not an encouraging step that President Mubarak is taking; we are just saying it’s not enough,” said Yahia Kalash, General Secretary of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate (EJS). “The problem is the way laws in Egypt criminalize journalism and prevent our colleagues from doing their jobs and deny society its right to information. We have been waiting for over 28 months and now it’s time for us to push for a complete ban on jail sentencing, not just a few amendments, which are not in line with the aspirations of Egyptian journalists.”

It has been two years since President Mubarak pledged to lift laws criminalising journalism. The IFJ has supported the EJS in its campaign for a law that ends all jail sentences for journalists.

For further information contact the IFJ: +32 2 235 2200

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.