Constitutional freedom….legal detention
The Egyptian constitution assured the freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of press and scientific research and the freedom of creation as in the following articles:
(47) Freedom of opinion is guaranteed. Every individual has the right to express his opinion and to publicize it verbally or in writing or by photography or by other means within the limits of the law. Self-criticism and constructive criticism is the guarantee for the safety of the national structure .
(48) Freedom of the press, printing, publication and mass media shall be guaranteed. Censorship on newspapers is forbidden as well as notifying, suspending or canceling them by administrative methods.
In a state of emergency or in time of war a limited censorship may be imposed on the newspapers, publications and mass media in matters related to public safety or purposes of national security in accordance with the law.
(49) The State shall guarantee the freedom of scientific research and literary, artistic and cultural invention and provide the necessary means for its realization.
The constitution also allocated a complete chapter entitled “the sovereignty of press” with six articles, from 206 to 211 which state the following content: Censorship on newspapers is forbidden as well as notifying, suspending or canceling them by administrative methods. Journalists have the right to get information.
Moreover, in 1982, Egypt approved and signed the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights CCPR. This makes articles (18) and (19) of the Covenant, emphasizing the freedom of opinion and expression, as active as other legislations.
However, laws contains many restrictions on the freedom of publishing and the freedom of press. These restrictions make the articles of the constitution and the covenant non exist except in the government reports handed to the international or UN authorities. The government then can say that “we have laws guaranteeing the freedom of press and the freedom of expression”. The statement then is said by some officials as “We enjoy press freedom and freedom of expression.” Just the existence of enactive constitutional articles hides the other laws constricting and killing all forms of freedom.
Legal constrictions on the freedom of expression in Egypt:
A- constricting the right to issue a newspaper:
1- According to press sovereignty law no 96/1996, the supreme press council – formed and controlled by the government- is the only authority for licensing newspapers issuance.
2- The right to issue newspapers is only restricted to political parties and public legal persons under severe conditions.
3- Upon the issuance of newspapers, the supreme press council impose censorship and supervision on journalists and journalistic institutions.
4- The council allocates resources of paper to newspapers and determining their prices
B- Delaying and censoring newspapers
1- The Ministerial Council may, according to imprints law no. 20/1936, ban any publication, issued abroad, from being sold, and to ban publishing it inside the state
2- Also article10 of the law granted the Minister of Interior the right to ban many newspapers published abroad from entering Egypt
3- The emergency law imposed 27 years ago granted the President the right to censor newspapers, periodicals, publications and all kinds of expression and advertisement before publication, and to confiscate it and closing it down.
4-According to law no. 20/1936 regarding imprints, newspapers can be confiscated in case of breaching articles 4, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, or in case of committing a crime mentioned in chapter 14 of part two of the Penal Code related to Crimes and Misdemeanors regarding journalism.
5- According to the same law a newspaper can be closed in two cases. If it wasn't published in three successive months of the date of the decision establishing it (article 18) of the imprints law no. 20/1936, or in the case of irregularity of publication.
C- Restrictions on the right of information flow
Many laws put restrictions on the right of getting and publishing information some are:
Law no 121/1975 regarding g banning using or publishing official documents.
law no. 35/1960 regarding statistical accounts of population.
law no. 313/1956 amended by law 14/1967 banning the publication of any news regarding the armed forces
Intelligence law no. 100/1971
D- penalties in cases of publishing
On the contrary of what may be thought by some people that the penal code contains only 30 articles of jail penalties in press crimes. The code contains many articles of jail penalty against the freedom of expression as follows:
1. Articles of the 14 th chapter from article 171 to article 200 which impose jail penalty in broadly worded crimes such as “encouraging or tempting on coup against regime or on changing the fundamental principles of the constitution (art.174). discrimination against a certain sect of the people and disturbing the public peace (art.176), harming the social decorum (art.178), deforming the state reputation and bringing out unsuitable manifestations (art 178 bis.) humiliating state president (art.179),
2. Jail penalty instead of fine penalty in “defaming the parliament, the shoura council or any other state authority (art.184), defaming a public or parliament personality (art.185), humiliating a judge or an authority or affecting a case (art.186)
3. Jail penalty in crimes of publishing false news or data (art.188)
4. Jail penalty in publishing cases that should be undisclosed (art.189)
5. Publishing about cases that should not be published (art.190)
6. Dishonest publishing about procedures of hearings and tribunals (191)
7. Publishing about undisclosed sessions of the parliament or dishonest publishing about it (art.192)
8. Some sections of the penal code jail penalty are stated in libel crimes (art.302, 303)
9. Publishing false news (art.305)
10. Libel (art.306)