Egypt adopts anti-terror law critics say may muzzle media: official
CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoEgyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified on Aug. 16 an anti-terrorism law which stipulates exorbitant fines, and possible suspension from employment, for "false" reporting on militant attack.
The government had sped up the passage of the law after the state prosecutor was assassinated in a car bombing in late June, followed by a large-scale jihadist attack in the Sinai Peninsula days later.
The military was infuriated after media, quoting security officials, reported that dozens of troops had been killed in the Sinai attack. The military's official death toll was 21 soldiers and scores of jihadists.
The controversial law, published in the government's official gazette, sets a minimum fine of 200,000 pounds (about $25,000) and a maximum of 500,000 pounds for for anyone who strays from government statements in publishing or spreading "false" reports on attacks or security operations against militants.
Critics say the steep fines may shut down smaller newspapers, and deter larger ones from independently reporting on attacks and operations against militants.
The government had initially proposed a jail sentence for offenders, but backed down after a backlash from Egyptian media.
The ratified law, however, added another clause allowing courts to "prevent the convicted from practising the profession for a period of no more than one year, if the crime violates the principles of the profession."
It did not specifically mention journalism.
The law also lays out the death penalty for those convicted of leading "terrorist groups" or financing attacks.
Hundreds of Islamists have been sentenced to death in mass trials since Sisi, a former army chief, overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Many of them have won retrials, and Morsi himself, sentenced to death last June, has appealed his verdict.