Draft imposes 'several new restrictions on press freedom'

Committee to Protect Journalists attacks Egyptian constitution

GMT 15:46 2012 Wednesday ,05 December

Arab Today, arab today Committee to Protect Journalists attacks Egyptian constitution

CPJ says articles in the draft constitution restrict freedom of the press
London - Arabstoday

CPJ says articles in the draft constitution restrict freedom of the press The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has criticised the proposed Egyptian constitution, adding that it would "impose several new restrictions on press freedom." In a statement, the organisation said plans to create a new government regulator to shut media outlets in Egypt were concerning and the increase in the criminal prosecution of journalists was a hallmark of the Hosni Mubarak regime.
On Saturday, the Egyptian Constitutional Committee approved a draft of the constitution. CPJ has backed Egyptian Journalists Syndicate's call for President Mohamed Morsi to withdraw the constitution from referendum on December 15.
"We support the right of journalists to seek protection under this new constitution," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. "We call on President Mohamed Morsi to work with civil society and press freedom groups to craft a constitution that truly guarantees freedom of expression and eliminates restrictions in the current draft."
Mansour has analysed a number of articles in the constitution and says they prohibit the fundamental rule in Article 45 that "freedom of thought and opinion shall be guaranteed" in the constitution.
CJP say Article 44, which prohibits "the insulting of prophets" can allow the government to prosecute critics like blogger Alber Saber, who has faced trial since September for "insulting the religion" and "insulting the president."
Article 215 replaces the Higher Council for Journalism, an elected body of journalists, with the National Media Council and government appointees, which is required to "establish controls and regulations that ensure the commitment of the media to adhere to professional and ethical standards" and "to observe the values and constructive traditions of society." CPJ believes that this vaguely defined mandate would give the new government agency the authority to control and guide editorial coverage and news.
Article 48 allows a court to shut down a media outlet if a judicial review finds an employee of the outlet has not respected the provisions of the article, including "respecting the sanctity of the private lives of citizens and the requirements of national security."
Article 216 announces the creation of an agency called the National Press and Media Association that would manage state-owned media outlets. The article does not specify how the members would be selected or offer details on how the agency would ensure the media would adhere to "sensible, professional, administrative, and economic standards." Local journalists fear this agency could end up serving the Muslim Brotherhood party, similar to how the Shura Council in July appointed members of the Muslim Brotherhood to leadership positions in media outlets.
Protests continue in Cairo against President Morsi, but vice-president Mahmoud Mekki has claimed that the constitutional referendum will go ahead as planned on December 15.

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