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Sunday, 10 June 2018

House splits Media Act’s second part into three separate bills, general assembly vote expected today

LEGISLATION WATCH- House splits part two of Press and Media Act into three separate bills, general assembly vote expected today: The House of Representatives’ Culture and Media Committee has decided to split the second part of the Press and Media Act into three separate pieces of legislation, Al Shorouk reports.

  • The first bill will regulate the work of the National Press Council and state-owned newspapers;
  • The second will govern the National Media Authority and state-owned audio-visual media outlets;
  • The third will govern all things related to privately-owned media, including licensing and permits.

The decision is the result of 39 meetings between the committee and different media stakeholders, House Culture and Media Committee chair Osama Heikal tells Al Ahram.

Background: The Press and Media Act was initially split into two laws. The first part — which was issued last year — set up three new regulators to police the media. The second, which has just been shipped off to the general assembly for vote — is expected to establish the regulations and guidelines for working in the press and media.

Protection for journalists and their published word? New legislation contains, for the first time, clauses that would, among other things, make it a crime to force a journalist to divulge information; to investigate them for holding an opinion; or to obstruct their work. New regulations also make harassing reporters on the job punishable by jail time and fines ranging from EGP 10k-20k, according to Heikal. It also prohibits the authorities from searching a journalist’s office without having a member of the state prosecution service present. Newspapers and TV channels will in turn be asked to set a clear editorial policy that all their employees must abide by.

News websites will be required to apply for permits from the state regulator and abide by the regulations governing other press institutions, Heikal also said. Other features of the laws include mandating all press and media institutions to set a minimum wage and to establish insurance funds for their employees, in addition to making sure that 70% of any institution’s editorial team is registered with the Press Syndicate.

State oversight of media financials? Media outlets of all form will be required to set a budget and financial statements — and to send copies of them to the National Media Authority, according to Heikal.

Parliament could vote on the new laws as early as today, he added. You can view the full text of all three laws here, courtesy of Al Ahram.

This comes as Gulf News reports that the Supreme Media Council will reportedly be collecting EGP 250k “for every offensive word uttered in a TV series aired” during Ramadan. A number of shows were not to the watchdog’s liking apparently.

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