Sign up for weekly updates

IFEX members' thoughts on Egypt's newly-enacted anti-terrorism law

On 17 August 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi approved an anti-terrorism law that, from the outset, was heavily condemned by local and international rights groups.

Journalists take part in a protest against the detention of Ahmed Ramadan, a photojournalist with Egyptian private newspaper
Journalists take part in a protest against the detention of Ahmed Ramadan, a photojournalist with Egyptian private newspaper "Tahrir", in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo, Egypt August 17, 2015

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The new law, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), imposes fines ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$25,500 to US$64,000) for publishing "false news or statements" about terrorist acts, or issuing reports that contradict accounts by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense.

The law also imposes a minimum of five years in prison for the "promotion, directly or indirectly, of any perpetration of terrorist crimes, verbally or in writing or by any other means."

"As of today, journalists are legally prohibited from investigating, verifying, and reporting on one of the most important matters of public interest," said CPJ Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour.

Executive Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Gamal Eid took to Twitter to put things in perspective for Egypt's citizenry.

Translation - We now have a definite law for terrorism in Egypt, we now have 90 million citizens who are potential alleged terrorists, the features of a civil state don't exist in Egypt anymore.

Reporters Without Borders also released a statement on the subject. Its secretary-general Christopher Deloire was quoted saying:

“Egyptians are entering an Orwellian world in which only the government is allowed to say what is happening. Even in countries where freedom of information is highly restricted, laws rarely suppress pluralism so blatantly."

While Egyptian civil society groups have been demanding that the law be reevaluated for months now, their calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. Almost one month prior to the passing of the law, ANHRI, along with its fellow IFEX members, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), and 20 other Egyptian organisations, issued a joint statement warning of the dangerous ramifications of the law.

"The proposed law makes us fear for the collapse of the state itself as it sacrifices the constitution, well-established legal precepts, and the esteemed Egyptian judicial system," it said.

The Sisi administration claims that the law will halt the terrorist attacks ravaging some parts of Egypt, namely the increasingly unstable Sinai peninsula. Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch, addressed that claim in a tweet yesterday.

CPJ's Sherif Mansour also took to Twitter to mock what he dubbed "Sisi's logic".

Translation - Sisi's logic: We face a terrible terrorism crisis... but we won't fight the terrorism... we shall instead fight those who say that we aren't fighting terrorism.

Mansour continued to question the logic behind the controversial piece of legislation in a second tweet posted along with a link to the official text of the law.

Translation: The anti-terrorism law is 38 pages long, all full of rights afforded to the government for it to do whatever it pleases without liability. So why do you need to write a law in the first place then?

The law was ratified in the absence of an elected parliament. In other words, without accountability.

The International Press Institute published a statement blasting the law and offering recommendations to the government.
According to the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, since his official inauguration as president last year, Sisi has issued more than 175 new laws unhampered. Parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place in March 2015 and then April 2015. It was later announced they would take place in September and then, yet again, postponed to October and November 2015.

Unfortunately, and despite Sisi's many policies claiming to fight terrorism, attacks in Egypt have been on the rise since the ex-military chief took office.

Latest Tweet:

His weekend shows were cancelled and he was temporarily detained. His fans were teargassed, assaulted and some arre…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.