Saturday, November 29, 2014

Government proposes ban on news coverage of military

The Guardian 
Egypt mulls military news ban
Proposed law would outlaw coverage of armed forces’ activity without prior approval from senior military officials
November 7, 2014
Patrick Kingsley
Egypt is considering whether to ban news about its armed forces, after the cabinet drew up a draft law that would outlaw coverage of military activity without prior approval from senior military officials, several Egyptian newspapers have reported.

The proposed law would ban “the disclosure or display of any news or information or statistics or data or documents relating to the armed forces or its formation or movements or equipment or work or plans”, according to a leaked version of the legislation.

The army is the single most influential institution in contemporary Egypt and revered by a majority of Egyptians. But its critics have drawn attention to the lack of oversight in the military budget, and lack of accountability for its alleged human rights abuses, including the disappearances of hundreds of civilians inside military institutions.

Human rights groups denounced the proposed law as the latest of many moves aimed at extending military control over the country and ending the freedoms gained after Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

It follows the placement last week of large parts of Egypt’s civilian infrastructure under military jurisdiction; the banning of unlicensed protest last November; several mass shootings of demonstrators; and the effectively arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of both secular and Islamist opposition members over the past year.

It also comes days before a likely crackdown on rights-focused NGOs that activists fear will begin on 10 November.

Commenting on the proposed law, Mostafa Shaat, a researcher at the Cairo-based Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, said: “It’s really shocking to know that people in Egypt can’t yet access the basic information about where their money is spent.

The law should be seen in the context of the ongoing crackdown on the public sphere and the unprecedented limitations and restrictions that the army has recently imposed. This law, if ever enacted, will violate people’s right to access information and to their right of expression.”

But many may disagree, with a significant proportion of Egyptians supportive of a return to authoritarian order, exhausted by the upheaval created by the 2011 uprising, and frightened by a wave of terrorist strikes that have hit Egypt since last summer’s regime change.

Seventeen editors of major state and private newspapers last week agreed to avoid criticism of the state, reiterating “our rejection of attempts to doubt state institutions or insult the army or police or judiciary in a way that would reflect negatively on these institutions’ performance.”

Egyptian officials have consistently denied accusations of widespread torture and judicial irregularities. Hisham Badr, a foreign ministry official, told UN ambassadors this week that critics of Egypt’s rights record were “dealing with conditions in a country other than the Egypt in which we live.”

Spokesmen for Egypt’s presidency and foreign ministry said they needed to speak to colleagues before commenting on the proposed law.
*Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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