New anti-terrorism law takes Egypt into Orwellian territory
Published on Monday 17 August 2015.
Reporters Without Borders condemns a ban on media reports that conflict with official accounts of armed attacks and operations by Jihadi militants. The ban is part of an anti-terrorism law that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified yesterday in the absence of an elected parliament.
“Is journalism is now a crime?” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire asked. “In Egypt clearly yes, because the Sisi regime is using this new ‘anti-terrorism law’ to ban journalists from contradicting its own version of events."
“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. Egypt is sinking ever deeper into a terrible despotism that not only wants to control information and detain journalists but also put them under even more pressure than during the Mubarak era.”
Published in the government gazette, the new law provides for fines of 200,000 to 500,000 Egyptian pounds (23,000 to 57,000 euros) for anyone disseminating “false” information about bombings or other operations by armed groups. A journalist who, for example, gave a bombing death toll at variance with the government’s, could be convicted of a criminal offence.
Ever since Field Marshall Sisi seized power, the authorities have been using the fight against terrorism as grounds for systematically persecuting journalists who do not toe the official line.
With at least 15 journalists currently detained just for doing their job, Egypt is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.