14 January 2013

Egypt: Articles That Restrict the Freedom of Expression in the Egyptian Laws

press release

A Just judge and unjust law are better than unjust judge and just law.

Currently in Egypt and after the great revolution that was praised by the world, we deserve the just judge and the just law, which can't be achieved without the actual and the serious political will.

In order to regain the Egyptian independent judiciary, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information presents this initiative of inventorying all the articles that restrict the freedom of expression in seven laws to achieve the just law.

The democratic country can't be sustained without freedom of expression which can't be sustained in the light of the harsh, flexible and highly generalizing articles. Such articles bring the word, opinion, criticism, gesture, acclaim and reference to the criminal courts in addition to the penalties that restrict the freedom of expression.

Why words are taken to courts!

This slogan used by the Egyptian journalists and bloggers for years. They have used it to refuse and condemn the repressive Mubarak's laws. In addition to the unjust trials conducted against criticizers, writers and bloggers. Despite the repression they have suffered, but they did not stop expressing their opinions and they defended their right to express political opinion and criticism.)

Currently, as we have an elected civilian president, reforming the legislative system became a critical need. Particularly, the laws related to the freedom of expression and the press which we consider to be a starting point to reform and develop the media in Egypt.

This study is a result of months of several meetings held between lawyers and researchers of ANHRI with some MPs. Some of these meetings were held in the parliament halls and some in ANHRI's headquarter. The meetings included long discussions (regarding amending the penal code articles related to the publishing cases).

By virtue of a court verdict, the parliament was dissolved and the discussions were stopped. But the violations against the freedom of expression did not stop. Therefore and until Egypt has a new parliament; it is very useful to expand the scope of the legal reforms and amendments to include all the articles related to the freedom of expression. Such articles are not just in the penal code but in other applicable laws.

This inventory of all the articles that restrict the freedom of expression and our proposed amendments, we present it as a diligence and an initiative. We do not claim it is the perfect or the accurate model, but it is a step in the path to a society that respects the freedom of expression, whatever escapade, accepts criticism, no matter how intense it is and welcomes creativity, whatever escapade.

We sought as possible, to avoid the penalties that restrict freedoms in relation with the publishing cases and freedom of expression. We have relied on one of the most significant judgments of the supreme constitutional court during the nineties, which have witnessed the worst authoritarian practices of the former

Mubarak's regime. The said judgment is as follows:

(While it is true that the correct results are the outcome of balancing among multiple opinions that are freely expressed. These opinions do not pick certain solutions, upon its sole discrete, from the public authorities and impose it by force. It is correct that the preventive nature of the penalty imposed by the state against who violates it's regime does not provide a sufficient guarantee to protect it. It is dangerous to impose restrictions on the freedom of expression that could lead to refraining people from practicing the right of freedom of expression. The path to the national safety lies in guaranteeing the equal opportunities for the open discussion, to face all forms of suffering - varied in its dimensions - and implements what the adequate from the solutions stemming from the public will.

Therefore, it is logically and inevitably that the constitution shall be biased to the freedom of discussion and dialogue in all the matters related to the public affairs, even if they included severe criticism to the public officers. It is not allowed to anyone to silence a third party, even if it was supported by law. The force dialogue is a waste to the reason of the mind and freedom of creativity, hope and imagination. In any case the force generates awe between the citizens and the right to express their opinions, which could promote the desire to repress the freedom of expression. In addition to, it enhances the hostility of the public authority which opposes the freedom of expression which ultimately threatens the nation's security and stability)

Whereas the above-mentioned, criticizing the public officers - even if it was severe -remains enjoying the protection guaranteed by the constitution to the freedom of expression related to opinions without prejudice to the right content of this freedom or exceed the purposes of its establishment.

Case no. 42 of 16 judicial year the supreme constitutional court, on Saturday May 20, 1995.

Therefore, replacing the penalties that restrict freedoms with fines or civil compensation will not violate the fact and the reason, but it is in line with the spirit of the law and to go along with the provisions of the judiciary and the Egyptian Constitution.

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