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Draft by-laws to penalise Egyptian media for rumours and criticism

Egypt’s state-run Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) is considering the imposition of a new list of penalties for libel, defamation, inciting violence or publishing and disseminating rumours or anonymously sourced news. Drafts of the proposed by-laws have been leaked into the public domain, the independent news website Mada Masr has reported.

The offences include “criticising citizens’ behaviour in a form that exceeds the boundaries allowed for criticism”, inciting hatred or discrimination and offending the values of society. Penalties include the blocking of websites, suspension of broadcasts and fines that could be as high as 500,000 Egyptian pounds (around $2,800).

According to Gamal Shawky, the head of the SCMR complaints committee, once the draft by-laws are approved, they will apply to a variety of media outlets and material, including TV and radio programmes, films, advertisements and newspapers. The list includes everything published on websites, social media and private accounts with more than 5,000 followers.

Amr Badr, a board member of the Egyptian Press Syndicate, told Mada Masr that the proposed by-laws are “very broad” and warned that “in a country which lacks the right to information [such by-laws] will only encourage corruption.”

Egypt is ranked 161st on the World Press Freedom Index, out of 180 countries, down two places since 2016. The Egyptian authorities have blocked some 500 websites, most of which are news outlets or sites concerned with human rights.

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