Press Law Delayed

The Government, represented by the Ministry of Information, presented amendments to the Press and Publication law a few months ago. At the same time the appointed Consultative Council suggested other amendments for the Parliament to look at before the law is finally ratified.

There is an agreement among elected MPs and the executive authority on the need for a modern law which expands the margin of freedom and lifts restrictions on journalists. Also there is an agreement between MPs that the Consultative Council’s suggestions are closer to achieving these freedoms than governmental amendments. A third opinion sees the necessity of combining the two projects, but until now the Parliament has not ended its discussion in this regard due to the accumulation of its work. The delay has caused a media outcry.

There are almost 13 articles of the law awaiting deletion as they are regarded as unfair and obstructive to the journalistic activities including articles related to sanctions imposed on journalists. MPs are of the view of referring press offenses to civil courts rather than criminal courts.

Media people and representatives expressed their opinion about the law to MPs. In addition to their objection to sanctions they welcomed the Consultative Council’s draft as the basis for the expected amendments and saw it closer to their views and aspirations. They also called for the amendment of Article 4, which relates to granting licenses, and that there should be a clear list of prohibitions instead of leaving decisions to the judgment or mood of the officials. They also criticized the strict licensing procedures and described them as unjustifiable, particularly those related to the publication of a daily newspaper. With regard to the organization of electronic journalism, the Ministry of Culture and Information believe it should have the authority to issue regulatory resolutions, while MPs and journalists believe that the decision to block internet sites should be in the hands of the court