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Monday, 16 July 2018

An eventful day at parliament made for a legislation-heavy night on the airwaves

An eventful day at the House of Representatives made for a legislation-heavy night on the airwaves, with part two of the Press and Media Act garnering the most attention.

Among the few exceptions to the rule was IMF Mission Chief for Egypt Subir Lall’s praise of Egypt’s economic reforms on Yahduth fi Masr. Lall repeated much of what was said in the IMF’s policy review, which was released on Thursday, including a hat tip to the central bank for its monetary policy. He drove home the point that the path ahead is reason for optimism as long as Egypt remains committed to the balance of the program (watch, runtime: 5:37).

The House of Representatives signed off in principle yesterday on the three articles that comprise part two of the Press and Media Act, but postponed its final vote due to lack of quorum, Ahram Online reports. The assembly approved amendments to the bills made after the Council of State (Maglis Al Dawla) suggested several of them were unconstitutional and an infringed freedom of the press. The amended version of the act appears to eliminate a clause that would have required reporters to acquire permits for every event or incident they cover, according to Al Mal.

Members of the Press Syndicate are still opposed to the final draft of the legislation, saying in a statement put out yesterday that the House ignored the vast majority of comments made by the syndicate and Maglis El Dawla, Al Shorouk reports.

Syndicate head Abdel Mohsen Salama, by contrast, seemed satisfied with the amended bill, including an amendment that only allows journalists to be held in pre-trial detention in cases related to discrimination, inciting violence, and tarnishing someone’s honor (which governorate is being represented by Don Quixote?). The amended version of the act also tweaked a clause that would have required reporters to acquire permits for every event they cover, and now only stipulates that these permits be obtained to access restricted areas, according to Salama (watch, runtime: 4:40). He also had a similar chat with Hona Al Asema’s Reham Ibrahim (watch, runtime: 6:32).

Take Salama’s boosterism with a grain of salt: It probably doesn’t represent the views of most mainstream journalists. The syndicate boss recently outraged many in the rank and file by appearing just a bit too close to his industry’s regulator. When Supreme Media Council boss Makram Mohamed Ahmed was recently summoned to account for a gag order imposed on the media, Salama not only defended the gag, but said he would accompany Ahmed to the meeting with prosecutors.

Rep. Osama Heikal seemed disgruntled that the article on pre-trial detentions was amended at all, telling Hona Al Asema that he was fond of its original form. Heikal said that the House “generally” took the Council of State and Press Syndicate’s recommendations and requests when amending the act. Deputy House Speaker Soliman Wahdan also tried to frame the bill as an indication of House representatives’ “appreciation” for the journalistic profession (watch, runtime: 10:14).

Lack of quorum behind postponement of vote on Madbouly gov’t program? On a separate note, It appears that a lack of a quorum was behind parliament’s delay in voting on the Madbouly government’s policy program to tomorrow. Absentee reps also resulted in the postponement of deliberations over other pieces of legislation (watch, runtime: 4:26). Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said he hopes parliament will make it through its discussion of the policy program by the beginning of next week, Al Hayah fi Masr’s Kamal Mady said (watch, runtime: 2:05).

A path to citizenship for foreigners? Not gonna happen, we say: Rep. Kamal Amer took to the airwaves to defend a proposed law that would grant foreign residents Egyptian citizenship in exchange for an EGP 7 mn deposit (or its foreign currency equivalent). The final vote on the law was postponed due to lack of quorum yesterday, Youm7 reports. Amer slammed the suggestion that Egypt is selling citizenship, saying that foreigners would be required to meet several other requirements (watch, runtime: 8:09). Passing the bill, he said, would also help spur foreign investment (watch, runtime: 5:48).

Health Minister Hala Zayed finally washed her hands of the national anthem gaffe during a meeting with the House Health Committee yesterday, Rep. Shadia Thabet told Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary. Zayed denied she had issued a binding ministerial decision to play the national anthem and Hippocratic oath in hospitals, saying that it was nothing more than a suggestion to “spread positive energy” (watch, runtime: 4:51).

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