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New law in Egypt will see government regulate media

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has signed a new law today that will further control the media and regulate members of a new media council.

The council will be given the power to fine or suspend publications and broadcasters and to allow foreign media permits or revoke them.

The law, which was approved by parliament and signed into law by Al-Sisi, will create a Supreme Council for the Press and Media where a chairman will be picked by Al-Sisi and where members will be appointed based on nomination by bodies like parliament and the judiciary.

The new council will be tasked with suing media organisations that violate enforced regulations, creating a list of penalties, fining media organisations that are in breach of licence terms and will have the authority to suspend the right to publish or broadcast.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and countless human rights organisation have continuously criticised the lack of media freedoms in Egypt and the numerous arrests and sentencing of journalists which was the second highest in the world in 2015.

The council is set to regulate fair competition between media groups as well as their supposed independence and neutrality, an adherence to journalistic ethics and preventing any compromise of national security, according to the Official Gazette.

The chief of the press syndicate, Yehia Qalash, stated that the council were mostly concerned with administrative affairs and did not compromise media freedoms. According to Qalash, parliament was still debating other media legislation.

The other legislation will cover sentencing, freedom of information, confidentiality of sourcing and the relationship between journalism and national security.

Over the weekend, the Interior Ministry confirmed it had arrested an Al Jazeera news producer for "provoking sedition" on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In May this year, police raided the press syndicate's offices in Cairo and arrested two journalists for criticising the government, provoking thousands of Egyptian journalists to protest their arrests.

A court in November found the syndicate leadership, including Qalash, guilty of harbouring criminals and sentenced them to two years in prison which Qalash appealed whilst out on bail.

The government has defended it position stating that it respects media freedom and all jailed journalists are facing criminal charges unrelated to their work.

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