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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Freedom of speech was the theme of the evening on the airwaves last night

Freedom of speech was the theme of the evening on the airwaves last night, thanks to a gag order on the corruption investigation at 573757 Children’s Cancer Hospital and the sentencing of a Lebanese tourist for eight years for cursing out Egypt on social media.

Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek summoned Supreme Media Council head Makram Mohamed Ahmed for questioning after Ahmed banned reporting on an ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption at the 573757 Children’s Cancer Hospital. Sadek overturned the gag order, calling Ahmed’s decision an “infringement” on press freedoms in a statement. Summoning Ahmed for questioning “is a highly unusual step given the seniority of his position and that he was hand-picked for the job by the president,” the Associated Press notes. The story has received widespread coverage in the foreign press.

Ahmed took to the local press and the airwaves to defend his position, saying the move was necessary to “preserve the hospital’s reputation” throughout the investigation. He tells Hona Al Asema that he had taken similar decisions in the past that were not met by such a backlash (watch, runtime: 8:29).

Ah, cronyism: Prosecutors are more interested in press freedoms than is the Press Syndicate. The Press Syndicate is standing by Ahmed, with syndicate boss Abdel Mohsen Salama saying he will accompany Makram when the latter meets prosecutors on Wednesday. Salama called in to Hona Al Asema (watch, runtime: 6:07) and Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 7:12) to defend Salama and his decision.

Lebanese tourist Mona El Mazbouh was sentenced to eight years in prison and a EGP 10,700 fine on Saturday on charges she “defamed” Egypt and spreading false rumors “that aim to undermine society and attack religions,” her lawyer Emad Kamal tells Reuters. El Mazbouh had posted a 10-minute video in which she used profanities to describe her harassment while on vacation in Egypt. Her arrest, along with another activist who posted her protest on Facebook, had brought Egypt heavy criticism over press freedoms, notes the AP.

Pundits are calling for the tourist’s head, with lawyer Essam Aggag telling Masaa DMC that El Mazbouh should remain in custody for the duration of the appeals process. He said El Mazbouh’s apology video should not count — and even attacked her lawyer for defending her (watch, runtime: 8:17). Wait — a lawyer arguing a defendant has no right to legal counsel because she was … mean?

FinMin continues to try and calm concerns on real estate levy: For the second time in under a week Finance Ministry adviser Fathy Shaaban was on the airwaves to discuss a 2.5% tithe on real estate sales, reiterating that the tax has been in place in 1978 and would only impact property owners. He then delved into the nuances of the tax, saying that the penalties for not paying the tax, which include denying property owners power and water until they pay it, will applicable to both the buyer and seller of the property. Both sides of the transaction have 30 days from the sale to register it with the Finance Ministry and another 30 days to pay the tax. Failure to pay the tax will result in an annual fine of 13-14% of the sale, he noted. Realtors involved in the sale will also be obliged to ensure both parties have paid the tax (watch, runtime: 40:38).

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