The Egyptian parliament is removing satellite channels, radio stations and social media from the definition of “a terror entity” to try and clean up its image for Western media.
The decision comes after criticism from within the government that including them on the definition could be used to say Egypt violates free speech.
“The law will be promoted abroad as a means of repression if satellite channels are added, and we are not immune to that,” said Atef Nasser of the Future of the Nation Party.
In December Egypt’s House of Representatives approved a draft to amend provisions to a law on terror entities which would expand it to include TV channels, print media, radio stations and social media in or out the country that intend to “harm individuals, terrorise them or endanger their lives, freedoms, rights or security.”
Under the 2015 Terrorist Entities Law, “competent state bodies” can dissolve any entity included on the list, end its operations, close its buildings, ban meetings and membership, freeze property and assets, and temporarily deprive the individual or entity of their political rights.
Rights organisations have condemned the government’s efforts to restrict civil liberties using vaguely worded legislation. Hundreds of opposition members held in Egypt’s prisons have been charged or accused of spreading false news and of membership in a terror group.
In January 2020 Reporters Without Borders condemned proposed legislation to expand Egypt’s official list of terror entities: “This amendment is extremely worrying because it likens media outlets to terrorist organisations,” head of RDF’s Middle East desk said at the time.
Egypt is one of the world’s worst places for freedom of speech and one of the top four jailers of journalists. Over 500 media outlets have been blocked and intelligence services are said to own huge stakes in the media empire.
In 2013 then Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi asked for a popular mandate to fight terrorism across the country. Under his war on terror he has imprisoned thousands of members of the opposition.
In the Sinai Peninsula the Egyptian government has demolished houses, razed farmland and executed the local Bedouin population in a war on terrorism that is completely disproportionate to the threat posed.