By Sarah El-Sheikh
Journalists, intellectuals, and public figures called to change part of Article 98 in the press law, during a conference entitled “No to Inquisitions” in the Press Syndicate on Tuesday.
The syndicate organised the conference to address increasing attacks on journalists.
The conference discussed the restriction on journalists’ work since several journalists and writers were sentenced due to religious institutions’ complaints that their work is promoting “immoral behaviour” in society.
It further discussed a certain part added to Article 98 in the press law, which stipulates punishments for whoever uses contempt of religion to ensure national security. “No to Inquisitions” called to remove this part since contradicts Article 46 of the Egyptian constitution.
The conference described this part of the press law as a “weapon at the necks of the journalists, intellectualists, writers, and broadcasters” and that religious institutions, clerics, and extremists are seeking fame through restricting freedom of expression and creative work.
“Four journalists were arrested over the past few days, and so the conference seeks to end the inquisition,” head of the freedoms committee of the Press Syndicate Khaled El-Balshy said.
A journalist and the editor-in-chief of a newspaper run by state-owned Akhbar Al-Youm news organisation Ahmed Nagy were referred to a criminal court early November for publishing and writing an article with “obscene sexual content”.
Nagy wrote in Akhbar El-Adab, a literary journal affiliated with Akhbar Al-Youm. A chapter of his novel “Use of Life” appeared in the literary journal after having already been published by Dar El-Tanweer publishing house.
The prosecution said the published content “violates the sanctity of public morals and general ethics,” Nagy said.
“We want a free society without the interference of religious institutions. The state should ask journalists to correct or deny certain news instead of detaining them,” El-Balshy said.
“The state is in conflict with freedom of expression. I suggest contacting the parliamentary candidates and seek their support to end this issue,” media figure Ibrahim Issa said.
“If the Egyptian constitution articles were strongly activated, Egypt wouldn’t have faced all the past difficulties, even in the upcoming period. Out of respect for religion and mental health, we should promote freedom of expression. Journalists are the spine of society and without their pens we will be lost,” Issa said.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information issued a report on Monday saying 62 journalists, including Hossam Bahgat, are currently detained, while El-Balshy said in the conference that so far 32 journalists are detained.