Legislative Contexts for the Passage of Internet Laws

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The Anti-Terrorism Law

The Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law

The Press and Media Regulation Law

 

Introduction

With the acceleration of the issuance of laws related to rights and freedoms on the Internet, and laws related to communication technology in general, questions about the reasons and motives associated with the adoption of some of these legislations increase. In addition to other questions about the timing of their issuance, who was involved in making them, their relevance to each other, and their implications. This paper seeks to answer these questions, in order to understand the legislative developments that have occurred during the recent period and their impact on the situation of rights and freedoms. Answering these questions may also contribute to understanding the nature of legislative changes. As time passes, we are faced with deaf texts that are difficult to read or understand separately from the reality they were approved in, and the circumstances related to their issuance. Knowledge of the contexts of the passage of such laws is necessary to understand the legislator’s desire, and it may also help, if possible, in offering alternatives to these rules, and contribute to the interpretation of some texts that carry vague formulations that entail practical difficulties during their application.

This paper refers to some of the general features associated with laws related to rights and freedoms on the Internet, without addressing the explanatory readings of these texts, but by addressing different areas that pass between the contexts related to the laws. The paper also aims to review three different models of laws issued from 2015 to 2020, during which the development in the legislative status of laws, related to or linked to rights and freedoms on the Internet, can be monitored. The paper includes a model for laws of an exceptional nature, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 94 of 2015, and another law that includes some well-established punitive and procedural rules, such as Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law No. 175 of 2018, and finally the Law No. 180 of 2018 on Press, Media and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, which is mainly of a regulatory nature.

The Anti-Terrorism Law 

The general context of the issuance of the Anti-Terrorism Law

The issuance of the Anti-Terrorism Law was not easy, as the debate over the issuance of the law continued for many years. There have always been difficulties regarding the definition and nature of the terrorist crime, and its differentiation from other traditional crimes. However, the Egyptian authorities passed the law following the killing of the Egyptian Public Prosecutor at the end of June 2019 and after the President of Egypt said that “the hand of justice is shackled by laws”. Where the President stated that the laws must be amended to respond to developments taking place and to achieve the implementation of prompt justice “as soon as possible.” These statements were followed by the President’s decision to issue an Anti-Terrorism Law in the absence of the Egyptian Parliament1, as the executive authority did not respond to appeals to delay the issuance of the law until the formation of Parliament, which was less than four months between the start of its sessions and the issuance of the law.

The Anti-Terrorism Law sparked widespread criticism, as a number of Egyptian human rights organizations issued statements expressing their rejection of the law. The organizations described the law as “a new slap to the Constitution, destroying the rule of law and consolidating the undeclared state of emgency, which it consecrates under the pretext of protecting society and national unity and preventing the dissemination of violent ideas.” The organizations also condemned the law’s expansion of criminalization “by using inaccurate definitions, or by adding unspecified acts.” They also considered that the law encourages those who enforce it to use lethal force and even guarantees their impunity2. The objections did not stop at the level of human rights organizations but rather extended to other sectors, including the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. The syndicate issued a statement condemning the draft law, stressing its “absolute rejection of the new restrictions that the Anti-Terrorism Law came to place on the press and its freedom, in clear violation of the provisions of the Egyptian Constitution”. The syndicate considered that the law came to “restore again the restrictions that the press group has struggled to abolish throughout decades of its history”3. The Supreme Judicial Council also called on the Egyptian government to reconsider a number of texts of the Anti-Terrorism Law before approving it, despite its approval of most of what was stated in the law, as the Council expressed its concerns about the allocation of terrorism courts to some cases, considering that it is possible for them to be considered by ordinary criminal courts.

The Egyptian government responded partly to these demands, as it replaced the imprisonment penalty stipulated in Article 35 with a fine of up to five hundred thousand Egyptian pounds. However, the Egyptian authorities responded to the rest of the criticism with justifications on the grounds that the law comes at a time when Egypt is facing an unprecedented wave of terrorism and violence that has led to the targeting and killing of a number of innocent civilians, as well as members of the army and police, and that among the objectives of the law is to simplify procedures to speed up the process of achieving justice. The Egyptian authorities also indicated that this law does not establish special courts to consider crimes related to terrorism, but rather establishes special chambers within the framework of ordinary courts (criminal and first instance courts) headed by natural judges, which is the most efficient and effective way to deal with a large number of cases pending before the court. The Egyptian authorities also considered that this does not affect the rights of the accused, and the guarantees of a fair trial for them, as well as their right to overturn the sentences4. With regard to the President’s use of his exceptional legislative power, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that the new parliament, once elected, will review all the laws issued by the President, including the new Anti-Terrorism Law.5

The Anti-Terrorism Law has undergone a number of successive amendments, the last of which was in November, 2021. The last amendments to the law added two new articles; the first prohibits recording, filming, broadcasting, or displaying any proceedings from trial sessions in terrorist crimes except with the authorization of the President of the competent court. The second article gives the president of Egypt when a danger of terrorist crimes arises or environmental disasters result, the right to issue a decision to take appropriate measures to maintain security and public order. These changes came after the end of the state of emergency was declared in October 2021.

The impact of the formulations of the Anti-Terrorism Law on rights and freedoms on the Internet 

A- Regulating blocking for the first time as an exceptional legal tool in the Anti-Terrorism Law

The Anti-Terrorism Law included many rules of an exceptional nature, including the rules for blocking links to websites and web pages.6 With this, the approval of blocking, for the first time in Egyptian legislation, came through an exceptional law. This was necessarily reflected in the formulations regulating the blocking, where the law, through Article 49, gave the authority to the Public Prosecution or the competent investigative authority, to stop the websites, block them, or block the contents of any aspect of use of every website on the communication networks or the international information network or otherwise, if the website was established for the purpose of promoting ideas or beliefs calling for the commission of terrorist acts, or broadcasting what aims to mislead the security authorities, or influence the course of justice regarding any terrorist crime, or to exchange messages and issue assignments between terrorist groups or their members, or information related to the actions or movements of terrorists or terrorist groups at home and abroad.7 It is not clear from the wording of the text of Article 49 the procedures to be followed to make the decision to block, as the article includes a number of temporary precautionary measures that the Public Prosecution can take temporarily, such as the order to close the residences and seize the luggage and furniture, and the Public Prosecution’s decision, in this case, is temporary until the case is finalized. But the last paragraph of the text of Article 49 came without mentioning whether the decision to suspend or block a website was a permanent or temporary decision, the extent to which the decision is related to the settlement of the case, and what are the procedures for appealing the decision.

Exceptional rules, specified in the Anti-Terrorism Law, were not enough for applying the process of blocking on a wide range. During the last four years, the blocking-related activities increased, while no official entity has announced its responsibility for these practices, which means that they were practiced out of legal frameworks, as there was no public decree through which the legality of these practices could be ascertained or monitored. This common pattern of practices usually aims to reinforce illegal procedures so that they become normalized, and then ready to be legalized through establishing unconstitutional law rules.

As time passed, blocking has become a normal occurrence that users deal with daily. Consequently, a number of basic legislation and executive regulations were issued so that the regulation of the blocking process and content filtering is a basic part of them. The authorities managed to legalize the practices that started in 2017 by integrating the exceptional rules stipulated in the Anti-Terrorism Law with permanent rules in many legislations, especially the legislations issued in 2018, and so, the blocking was included in regulatory legislation such as the Press and Media Regulation Law, and penal laws such as the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law.

B- Criminalizing the management or creation of websites and electronic accounts, and illegal access to government websites

Among the crimes introduced by the Anti-Terrorism Law is what is known as the crime of “administering or creating websites”, which was stipulated for the first time in Article 29 of the law. The text of the article criminalizes the creation or use of websites for the purpose of promoting ideas or beliefs calling for the commission of terrorist acts, broadcasting what aims to mislead the security authorities, or influence the course of justice in relation to any terrorist crime. This text establishes crimes that were later stipulated for the first time in the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law, such as the crime of managing accounts and websites with the aim of committing a crime punishable by law, and crimes of illegal access to government websites. The bad wording of the Anti-Terrorism Law has also moved to the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law, in terms of vague terms and a lack of recognizable definition of crimes. In addition to the above, the expansion of forms of criminalization has led to the creation of legislative duplication, whereby it is possible for one act to be punished by more than one law, which is helped by the difficulty of defining a terrorist crime or ordinary crimes committed for a terrorist purpose.

 C- Banning the use of means of communication as a complementary punishment

The court hearing a trial in crimes related to the application of the Anti-Terrorism Law has the right to impose an additional supplementary penalty if it deems it necessary. Article 37 of the Anti-Terrorism Law included, for the first time, a complementary penalty stating the “prohibition of the use, possession or acquisition of certain means of communication.” This penalty can be applied for a period of up to five years, and the court has great discretion in applying the penalty for prohibiting the use of means of communication as well as in determining the duration of the penalty. This penalty has a profound effect, as the text of the penalty is so general that it may prohibit the possession of a mobile phone, the use of e-mail, or access to any information system, which is unimaginable in light of the great role that technology plays in all matters of life, as the practice of any job or access to any government services necessarily entails the use of means of communication.

The Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law

The general context of the issuance of the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law

Most of the rights associated with internet freedom come in different contexts in the Egyptian Constitution. The Egyptian Constitution, issued in 2014, through Article 57 dealt with many aspects related to the right to use public means of communication and the rights and freedoms associated with it that are necessary to guarantee this right, especially guarantees related to the privacy of users of means of communication and guarantees related to the procedures to be followed during the inspection of individuals and homes, and their relationship to the inviolability of private life and the related controls and procedures on the other hand, in addition to the existence of a special text regarding ways of compensation and redress for the damage resulting from the assault on private life.

What is evident from the wording of Article 57 of the Egyptian Constitution, is the link between the freedom of communication and the right to privacy of users. However, the text regarding the protection of private life, was categorical, without mentioning the exceptions or the need to refer to the law for regulatory details, which does not allow the parliamentary legislator to intervene to set legislative rules through which restrictions may be put on this right, and that the power of the parliamentary legislator stops at setting legal texts that respect the protection of private life, in implementation of the text of Article 57 of the Constitution. The text of the article also has not included whatever would allow deviations from this rule, except in the case of executing judicial orders which were also subject to time controls and justifications that must be clear.

While the text of Article 57 of the Constitution in its second paragraph has stipulated that the state is obligated to “protect the right of citizens to use public means of communication in all its forms, and it is not permissible to disrupt, stop or deprive citizens of it, in an arbitrary manner, and this is regulated by law.” It is clear from this that the text of the article allows the parliamentary legislator to set controls related to the regulation of the process of disabling or suspending the means of communication, but has set only one limitation for the legislator, which is that the suspension or disruption of communications must not be arbitrary. The Egyptian Constitution also included a reference to the inspection process and its relationship to the sanctity of private life. This reference was in two different places; The first position is related to the people searches, and the second is home searches. In addition to the guarantees related to the right to use the means of communication and the inadmissibility of disrupting this right or depriving people of its use, the Constitution includes many texts related to this right, such as freedom of expression, publication, and the use of digital media in all its forms, and these rights may not be restricted.

Legislative attempts to pass the “Cybercrime” law, after the promulgation of the Constitution, continued for nearly three years. These attempts ended in 2018 with the issuance of the “Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law”. During these attempts, the executive authority tried to come up with a proposal for a cybercrime law, so three drafts were issued by different ministries, including the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Communications. These drafts faced several crises related to the lack of clarity on the legislative philosophy on which the law was based. This is evident through the attempt to expand the forms of criminalization without justification or need, due to the constant confusion between the presence of crimes created by technological development, and the new dimensions of traditional crimes stipulated in the various penal laws and the development of the means through which crimes are committed. In addition to the lack of clarity and accuracy of the technical terms used in the various drafts of the law, and the lack of clarity of the legislative purposes of a number of texts of the law.

At the beginning of 2015, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to form a committee to prepare a draft law on combating information technology crimes, headed by one of the former Ministers of Justice, with the representation of a number of security authorities. In March 2015, the government discussed the first draft that was submitted by the Ministry of Justice. Discussion of this draft has not been completed for reasons that are not understood. In May 2016, the Defense and National Security Committee submitted another proposal consisting of 29 articles. This proposal did not differ much from the draft law that the government worked on during previous years, due to the government’s delay in presenting the draft law. At the time, parliament member Tamer Shahawy, a member of the Defense and National Security Committee, stated that the philosophy and objectives of the law come within the framework of “the task entrusted to the Parliament, being the legislative authority, and given the constant threats to Egypt’s national security in all its national, regional and international bodies, and since in recent years, such threats have relied on modern technology and the digital space, it has become necessary to put in place legal frameworks and legislation that ensures the Egyptian state’s safety.”

In September 2016, the Supreme Committee for Legislative Reform approved a new draft law on information technology crimes, primarily terrorism-related crimes. The proposal that was sent to the Cabinet included 59 articles. The articles stipulate the punishment of anyone who creates, manages, or uses a website, a private account, or an e-mail, for the purpose of establishing a terrorist entity or gang or promoting its ideas, or exchanging messages and issuing assignments between terrorist groups or their affiliates, or information related to the actions of terrorist or group movements at home and abroad, as well as making available or publishing data, information, or movements of the armed forces or security services, or about any of those working in these bodies, or members of any state authorities, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a terrorist crime.

Objectives related to the adoption of the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law

With the issuance of the last draft of the law, the legislator tried to avoid the problems which the previous drafts had. The report of the joint committee from the Communications and Information Technology Committee and the offices of the Committee on Constitutional and Legislative Affairs, Defense and National Security8 stated that the philosophy and objective of the draft law are as follows:

  • Combating the illicit use of computers, information networks, and information technologies, and related crimes, with a commitment to accuracy in defining the punishable acts, avoiding vague expressions by setting precise definitions for them, and defining the elements of criminal acts with great care, taking into account the personal considerations of the victims.
  • Setting the provisions for collecting electronic evidence and determining its authenticity in evidence.
  • Establishing the rules, provisions, and measures necessary to be followed by service providers to secure the service of providing users with communication services through information technology, and specifying their obligations in this regard.
  • Protecting government data and information, state-specific information systems and networks or a public legal person, from being intercepted, hacked, tampered with, destroyed, or disrupted in any way.
  • Protecting personal data and information from being used in a manner that offends its owners, especially in light of the inadequacy of the traditional criminal texts related to protecting the privacy of individuals and the inviolability of their private lives in the face of threats and risks created using information technology.
  • Establishing a strict procedural regulation governing the procedures of seizure, investigation and trial related to it, in addition to defining reconciliation cases and their procedures, and organizing the work of specialized experts working in the field of combating information technology crimes, and criminal decisions and orders related to the implementation of the provisions of the law.

It is clear from the explanatory memorandum and the joint parliamentary report, that each has affirmed that the primary objective of the law is “to protect the privacy of individuals and the inviolability of their private lives.” Despite this, the law in its last form was issued flawed, and laden with objective and procedural defects, directly detracting from the guarantees stipulated in the Egyptian Constitution.

The impact of the formulations of the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law on rights and freedoms on the Internet 

The Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law, in its final form, is the main law that regulates the criminalization and punishment of everything related to devices and networks. It is a legal regulation parallel, in one way or another, to the penal codes and criminal procedure, with minor modifications of a digital character, but with less clear wording. The law has three main sections that have an organic link between them, they complement each other, but each section has a different impact on the situation of rights and freedoms on the Internet.

The first section includes rules of a procedural nature. Through this section, the legislator attempts to establish a number of independent procedural rules that ensure that the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law is automatically applied, without the need to apply the general procedural rules stipulated in the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure. This section includes the rules for searching and accessing various devices, networks, and information systems, and defining the functional categories that have the status of a judicial police force to implement these procedures. This section also includes new restrictions regarding the procedural consequences associated with the investigation of an offense set forth in the law, such as a travel ban. The law introduced for the first time a procedural regulation of blocking websites and pages, and mandatory measures that apply to all service providers, obligating them to collect and retain users’ data. This is in addition to some limited details about the role of experts and digital forensic evidence in the cases stipulated in the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law. In general, most of the procedures in the law lack important elements related to the limits of the legality of practicing these procedures, as well as the nullity of non-compliance with them. The law also referred some rules of a fundamental nature to the executive regulations, which the executive authority is competent to issue, giving the executive authority some legislative powers that are not subject to the review of the legislator. Among these rules, the controls related to the appointment and selection of specialized experts, which the law gives them the power to collect and document digital evidence and issue technical reports related to information technology issues.

The second section includes types of crimes that can be committed through devices, networks or information systems, such as crimes related to the assault on bank cards, crimes against private life, and crimes that can occur on any information system owned by an individual or owned and managed for the benefit of the state, such as hacking a mail or a website. In general, the dominant feature of crimes is that they are largely reproduced from the traditional crimes mentioned by different penal laws, and that the legislator treats the means by which the crime is committed as new forms of crimes created by technological development, which is not true. The law also greatly expands the definitions and elements associated with crimes, as the different terms are difficult to understand or distinguish, and the crimes also place significant restrictions on page administrators, media, technology companies, and social media users, which may expose them to freedom-depriving penalties or heavy fines.

The third section includes the penalties, which are up to 3 years in prison and fines exceeding 500,000 Egyptian pounds. The law establishes some cases in which the penalties may be tightened up to imprisonment, but the legislator did not rely on clear controls for this tightening. It was sufficient that the crime had been committed with the purpose of “disturbing public order, endangering the safety and security of society, harming the country’s national security or its economic status, or preventing or obstructing the public authorities’ exercise of their functions, disrupting the provisions of the constitution, laws or regulations, or harming national unity and social peace”. These statements are highly relative and cannot be determined consistently. The law also included a number of accessory penalties such as the  dismissal of a public servant if he committed one of the crimes stipulated in the Penal Code when this crime is related to his job.

 The Press and Media Regulation Law

The general context of The Press and Media Regulation Law

The Egyptian Constitution issued in 2014 laid down the general features related to regulating the media in all its forms. The Constitution guarantees the right to own and issue newspapers and establish media outlets, as well as the right to publish newspapers upon notification, and refers the procedures for establishing and owning radio and visual broadcasting stations and electronic newspapers to the law. The Constitution also prohibits the imposition of a penalty of deprivation of liberty in crimes committed by way of publication or in public, in general, and as an exception to this principle, the Constitution permits the application of penalties in the event that the publication process results in incitement to violence or discrimination between citizens or to challenge the honor of individuals. The Egyptian Constitution also approved new organizational frameworks, through which it created administrative and organizational structures for three main bodies concerned with everything related to the media and the press in their various forms. The Constitution divided organizational roles and assigned them to three independent bodies: the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, the National Media Authority, and the National Press Authority. The role of the two national bodies was limited to the management of state-owned media institutions, while that of the Supreme Council for Media extended to the regulation of all media-related matters.9

Following the promulgation of the Constitution, the National Media Committee was formed, emanating from the Supreme National Committee charged with developing media legislation in Egypt, the “Fifty Committee”, which was formed from media and press institutions in agreement with the Prime Minister, along with a governmental committee consisting of 8 ministers. The National Media Committee took over the task of drafting the “unified media” law, and included in its membership representatives of the Supreme Council for Meda, the Journalists Syndicate, the Radio and Television Union, the Media Syndicate “under establishment”, the General Union of Print and Press Workers, representatives of private media bodies and channels, and professors of media and journalism in Egyptian universities. The committee continued its work from September 2014 to August 2015, during which meetings and listening committees were held in all press institutions to announce the unified media law. A copy of the draft law was sent to the President and another to the Prime Minister, but the government made a number of amendments to the draft law and ended up dividing it into two projects. The first relates to the formation of the national media and press authorities and the Supreme Council for Media, and the second relates to the regulation of press and media work. The Egyptian government justified this by saying that media organizations must be formed first because the Constitution obligates their opinion to be taken on draft laws related to the regulation of the press and media.

Government efforts to pass the “Institutional Regulation for Press and Media” law succeeded in December 2016, while the issuance of the law regulating press and media work was delayed. The three bodies were formed under the Institutional Regulation of the Press and Media Law, and these bodies exercised their jurisdiction as defined by the Institutional Regulation Law, with the remainder of the Press Regulation Law remaining in force. The Supreme Council for Media, headed by Mr. Makram Mohamed Ahmed, exercised its oversight role during this period, which prepared the media and press arena for the role of the Council and the nature of its new decisions. During this period, the Council was able to impose various penalties by imposing penalties as preventing the appearance of media professionals and individuals, deleting content, and preventing writing on some topics. This role has increased in the absence of a law that provides protection for press and media institutions.

Parliamentary discussions on approving the unified law continued for a year and a half from the date of introduction of the Institutional Regulation for the Press and Media Law, until parliament approved the “The Press, Media and the Supreme Council of Media Regulation Law” in June 2018. The law entered into force after its ratification by the President in August 2018. The law includes basic axes that can be summarized in the following points:

The impact of the formulations of the Press and Media Regulation Law on rights and freedoms on the Internet 

The wordings included in the Press and Media Regulation Law did not reflect the objectives for which the law was enacted, as referred to in the law’s explanatory memorandum.10 The texts of the law, especially those guaranteeing guarantees related to the freedom to establish and own media outlets or that guaranteeing the independence of the work of media institutions, were largely biased towards traditional press and media at the expense of electronic media and publishing, affected by the formulations of the Egyptian Constitution. It may be understandable that in the period during which the current Egyptian Constitution was approved, in 2014, the traditional media and press were the most prevalent11, but the matter differed significantly from the period during which the Press and Media Regulation Law was issued, in 2018, where reliance became mainly on the electronic media. The law also lacks guarantees related to the protection of electronic newspapers and media. The legislator has imposed some restrictions related to censorship of websites and personal pages, which is not only inconsistent with the general objectives of issuing the law, but also with the regulatory rules mentioned by the Press and Media Regulation Law in the articles of its issuance.

Censorship of personal websites and social media pages

The Press and Media Regulation Law aims mainly at regulating the press and media and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation. The rules of the law apply to all entities, institutions, press and media outlets, and websites, as stated in Article 1 of the Press and Media Regulation Law. Article 1 expressly stated that the website, the means, or the personal electronic account shall be excluded from the application of the provisions of this law, but the article was appended with the phrase “unless the accompanying law stipulates otherwise.” Indeed, the second paragraph of Article 19 gives the Supreme Council for Media the power to suspend or block a website, blog, or personal account whenever it publishes or broadcasts false news, or what calls or incites to breach the law, violence, or hatred, or involves discrimination between citizens, or calls for racism or includes insults or slanders to individuals, or insults the heavenly religions or religious beliefs, and that each personal website, personal blog or personal electronic account, with a number of followers of five thousand followers or more, shall be bound by the provisions of the previous paragraph.

Article 19 of the law also gave the Council the authority to take “the appropriate action against the violation,” and to this end, it may suspend or block the website, blog, or account. The text of Article 19 is considered one of the texts that greatly restricts the ability of individuals to freely express their opinions, and the text of the article in its drafting raises concerns that go beyond the idea of ​​censorship on the page or website by blocking its link, there are concerns that the text of the article has opened the powers of the Council to take appropriate action, which is not limited to blocking only, as Article 96 of the Press and Media Regulation Law gives the authority to the Supreme Council for Media on its own, or based on a complaint submitted to it, to file lawsuits for any violation of the provisions of this law that constitutes a crime.

Restrictions on establishing and owning electronic newspapers and media

The Press and Media Regulation Law differentiates between what is related to the procedures for establishing and owning newspapers and websites that act as electronic backers for newspapers on the one hand, and between media outlets and websites that act as electronic backers for media outlets and websites in general on the other hand. Despite the high cost of establishing newspapers, the law gives many advantages to newspapers, unlike media outlets and websites. We can point out these differences through the following table:

Newspapers and websites that act as electronic backers for paper newspapers Media and websites that act as electronic backers for media outlets and websites in general
Who has the right to own property Egyptians, whether natural or legal persons (companies and the like), public or private, have the right to own newspapers or press websites. Egyptians, whether natural or legal persons (companies and the like), public or private, have the right to own newspapers or press websites.
Foreigners’ Ownership Conditions Non-Egyptian shareholders, who are natural or legal persons, may not own a percentage of the shares that entitle them to the right of the management. Non-Egyptian shareholders, who are natural or legal persons, may not own a majority of the shares, or grant them the right of the management.
Contraindications to owning or sharing ownership It is stipulated that whoever owns or participates in the ownership of a newspaper or a website shall not be deprived of exercising political rights, or have been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, unless he has been rehabilitated. A person who owns a media outlet or a website or contributes to its ownership is required not to be deprived of exercising his political rights or have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor prejudicial to honor or trust, unless he has been rehabilitated.
Combining ownership of more than one medium/share of ownership of more than one medium It is not permissible for an individual, family, or legal person (companies and the like) to combine ownership of a daily newspaper with participation in another daily newspaper. It is not permissible to own a percentage of shares that entitles management in more than one daily newspaper, and this provision applies to electronic newspapers. The company may not own more than seven television channels, and it may not include more than one public channel and one news channel.
Data required for the establishment The Supreme Council sets a model for the newspaper’s incorporation system and articles of association, provided that the articles of incorporation specify the purposes of the newspaper, and the names of the temporary chairman and members of the board of directors from among the owners or shareholders, and the term of this board is six months at most from the date of completing the incorporation procedures, during which the board of directors is formed in accordance with the system specified in the articles of incorporation. The Supreme Council shall prepare a form for licensing the practice of media work for the media outlet or website. The purposes of the media outlet or website, the target audience, the editorial policy, the names of the chairman and members of the board of directors, and its statutes must be specified in the form.
Establishment method (between notification and registration) Whoever wishes to issue a newspaper must notify the Supreme Council by a letter signed by him or his legal representative, including the name of the newspaper or website, the name, surname and nationality of its owner, his place of residence, the language in which the newspaper or website is published, the type of content, editorial policy, funding sources, the type of activity, the editorial and administrative structure, the budget statement, the address, the name of the editor-in-chief, the address of the printing press in which the newspaper is printed and the location of the website’s broadcast. It is not permissible to create or operate any media outlet, or website, or advertise it, before obtaining a license from the Supreme Council, and the Supreme Council determines the conditions and requirements for licensing.

– A request to establish or operate a media outlet or website shall be submitted to the Supreme Council on the forms it sets, completing the data and documents it specifies.

Deadlines for responding to a license application The Supreme Council shall notify the person submitting the notification by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt that his data is complete or that the missing data must be completed, within 30 days from the date of receiving the notification, and if the Supreme Council does not respond within the aforementioned period, the notification shall be considered complete.

The person submitting the notification must provide the Supreme Council with the required data within thirty days from the date of notification of its fulfillment, otherwise the notification shall be considered null and void. In all cases, it is not permissible to issue the newspaper or establish the website before completing the full notification data.

A request to establish or operate a media outlet or website shall be submitted to the Supreme Council on the forms it sets, completing the data and documents it specifies, and the Council shall decide on the request within a period not exceeding ninety days from the date of completing the request, in return for a fee not exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand Egyptian pounds for the medium. And fifty thousand Egyptian pounds for the website, to be collected in cash or any other method of payment.
Terms and conditions related to the medium’s work team – It is a condition for every newspaper that requests to practice journalistic activity that the proportion of editors registered in the Syndicate of Journalists should not be less than 70% of the actual work capacity.

-It is required for every newspaper or website to have a responsible editor-in-chief who actually supervises what is published in it, and a number of responsible editors, each of whom actually supervises a particular section of its sections. The editor-in-chief and the editors in charge of the newspaper are required to be on the list of workers in the Syndicate of Journalists, and that no judgment has been passed against any of them in a felony, or in a misdemeanor prejudicial to honor or trust, unless he has been rehabilitated, and that he is not prohibited from exercising his rights political.

Regarding the media:

The media outlet appoints a program manager for the visual, audio, or electronic channel who is responsible for the content, provided that he is an Egyptian registered in the list of workers in the Syndicate of Media Persons or Journalists, and that he has not been convicted of afelony, or in a misdemeanor prejudicial to honor or trust, unless he has been rehabilitated, and that he is not prohibited from exercising his rights political., as well as appointing an official for broadcasting, provided that he is dedicated to his work, and that he enjoys the legal capacity.

Regarding websites:

There is no clear regulation

Terms and controls for broadcasting content through electronic applications None It is not permissible to broadcast the content of the print, audio, visual and electronic media on smartphones, or other similar devices or means without obtaining approval for this from the Supreme Council.
License Term None The term of the license is five years, and it may be renewed upon a request submitted by the licensee to the Supreme Council six months before its expiry.
Publish budgets Press institutions are obligated to publish their approved budgets and final accounts within the three months following the end of the fiscal year.

Without prejudice to the competencies of the Accountability State Authority, partisan and private press institutions are obligated to send a copy of their budgets to the Supreme Council for examination and to prepare a report on the result of the examination. The Council may seek the assistance of whomever it deems appropriate in this regard.

Without prejudice to the competencies of the Central Auditing Organization, the media outlet is committed to publishing its approved budgets and final accounts in two widely circulated daily newspapers during the four months following the end of the fiscal year, and is committed to enabling the Supreme Council to review the final accounts, books and documents. The Council may seek the assistance of whomever it deems appropriate in this regard.
Content retention procedures for review purposes Newspapers are printed in presses inside Egypt, provided that there is a copy of the electronic servers that host the electronic copy. The licensed media outlet and websites are obligated to keep complete documentary records of all programs and audio, video and electronic materials that they broadcast for a period of no less than the last twelve months of their activity, and they must deposit a copy of them to the Supreme Council.

 

Footnotes

1 Decree of the President of the Republic by Law No. 94 of 2015 promulgating the Anti-Terrorism Law – Official Gazette No. 33 (bis) on August 15, 2015.
2 The Egyptian Initiative and the Cairo Center in a legal comment that refutes the reasons for the objection and its contradictions with the Constitution – press release on August 26, 2015 https://bit.ly/37o29BO
3 A statement from the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, the draft “anti-terrorism” law for the constitution and calls for an emergency meeting of its council to discuss the law’s restrictions on press freedom on July 5, 2015 http://www.ejs.org.eg/page.php?id=1625260
4 Statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs- The official page of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Facebook dated August 19, 2015 shorturl.at/hzABU
5 In January 2016, the Egyptian parliament approved 341 law decisions that were issued during 3 years in the absence of the legislative authority, including the anti-terrorism law. These laws were approved in full without discussing the texts of the laws, with the exception of the objection to the civil service law. All these laws were passed within a period not exceeding 15 days. shorturl.at/rvw59
6 Article 49 of Law 94 of 2015 Concerning Combating Terrorism “The Public Prosecution or the competent investigation authority, as the case may be, in the crimes stipulated in Articles (12, 15, 19, 22) of this law, may issue a temporary order to close headquarters, places, and residences, and the accommodation facilities, provided that the decision is issued by at least a chief prosecutor. The seized luggage and furniture are considered as administratively seized items as soon as they are seized until the case is finalized, and delivered after their inventory and proof in minutes to a guard charged with guarding the seals placed on the headquarters, place, place, or the closed house, and if there are no seizures, he is assigned to guard the seals in the same way, and the issuance of the verdict of acquittal will result in the closure of the order being extinguished. The Public Prosecution or the competent investigation authority may stop the sites stipulated in the first paragraph of Article (29) of this law, block them, or block what is included in any aspect of the use stipulated in this article, and seize the devices and equipment used in the crime.”
7 Article 29 of Law 94 of 2015 Concerning Combating Terrorism “A term of up to five years’ rigorous imprisonment shall be imposed on anyone who establishes or uses a website on telecommunications networks, the international information network, or others, for the purpose of promoting ideas or beliefs calling for the commission of terrorist acts, or broadcasting What aims to mislead the security authorities, or influence the course of justice in relation to any terrorist crime, or to exchange messages and issue assignments between terrorist groups or their affiliates, or information related to the actions or movements of terrorists or terrorist groups at home and abroad. A term of no less than 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment shall be imposed on anyone who unlawfully or illegally accesses a website belonging to any government agency, with the intention of obtaining, accessing, changing, erasing, destroying, or falsifying its content, all for the purpose of committing or preparing for one of the crimes referred to in the first paragraph of this article.”
8 A report issued by the joint committee of the Communications Commission and the Offices of Constitutional and Legislative Affairs, Defense and National Security, dated May 2018.
9 Articles Nos. 70, 71, 72 of the Egyptian Constitution issued in 2014. https://cutt.ly/8h4VvnI
10 Text of the explanatory memorandum to the “Memorandum of Representatives” regarding the “press regulation” law, dated December 12, 2016 – https://bit.ly/3KfiSGk
11 A study by Masaar titled “The Crisis of the Absence of Constitutional Protection for Press Websites”, dated 12 April 2021 – https://bit.ly/3uPg79o

 

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