New Television Stations Under “Review” By Government
The ruling military council met with Prime Minister Sharaf for several hours Wednesday, Sept 7 to discuss “the deteriorating security situation” — by which they mean the ongoing strikes over economic conditions and protests over the failure of the council to lift emergency laws and stop military trials of civilians.
Among the six directives the council issued for the government to follow were two related to media. First, the government was ordered to stop issuing licenses for new television stations. While the government still controls the content of terrestrial channels, many independent satellite channels have been established and have, until now, enjoyed a relatively uncontrolled status.
The council ordered the government to begin reviewing licenses, with a view toward suspending channels that promote unrest. This, of course, is exactly what the Mubarak regime did with a number of television stations that were reporting on the protests.
The Minister of Information, Osama Haikal, assured reporters after the announcement that they had nothing to worry about because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces believes in “freedom of expression.”
Apparently his words failed to convince everybody, because on Thursday, Sept. 8 the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) “called on the SCAF and the cabinet to reconsider the decision, which it called an attack on freedom of expression and the right of information exchange” according to a story in Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The newspaper reported:
Hafez abu Sei’da, director of the EOHR, said in the statement that the decision is a return to the practices of the former regime. He said that the wording of the government’s decision was illegal since it didn’t give clear definitions of “sedition”, “censorship” and the measures that could be taken by authorities.
Freedom of expression and the right to exchange information are guaranteed for everyone according to the constitutional declaration and international standards of human rights, Abu Sei’da added.
Other directives issued include:
- The government will use all legal means to prosecute what the council described as all and any acts of thuggery.
- The government will support all police efforts to maintain peace.
- The government will intervene to halt all strike actions, and it will enforce a law it passed last spring, which criminalizes certain strikes that disrupt public life.
- The government will not negotiate with strikers over any demands until workers halt their workplace actions.