Egypt makes it illegal for journalists to contradict official account of terror attacks

Under new laws, trials for suspected Islamist militants could be fast-tracked through special courts

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The Independent Online

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved stringent new counter-terrorism laws establishing special courts and imposing heavy fines on journalists and bloggers who contradict official accounts of militant attacks.

Under new laws introduced on 17 August, trials for suspected Islamist militants could be fast-tracked through special courts, with anyone found guilty of joining a militant group facing 10 years in prison.

The BBC reports that journalists can be fined between 200,000 and 500,000 Egyptian pounds (£16,000-£41,000) for reporting incidents and figures about terrorist attacks which differ from the Egyptian Defence Ministry’s official accounts. The original draft of the law initially called for an additional two-year prison sentence.

Amnesty International warned that the legislation would vastly expand measures that would usually only be invoked during a state of emergency.

In a report released last week, the human-rights group warned that the laws “will effectively ban rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.

The new laws have been introduced following the assassination by car bomb of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in June, which was followed by a succession of attacks on security forces in North Sinai two days later.

The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy has said that President Sisi has ratified over 175 laws since his inauguration in June 2014, following the 2013 military coup to overthrow Egypt’s first elected president, Mohamad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Over the past two years, Egypt has been heavily criticised for sentencing 529 supporters of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood to death.