Press release

February 4, 1997

Constitutional Court upholds freedom of expression

CHRLA expresses its relief at the Constitutional Court's ruling on the first paragraph of Article 195 of the Penal Code, which judges it to be unconstitutional. The article had assumed that an editor-in-chief was criminally liable for any publication offenses committed by his newspaper.

CHRLA has repeatedly challenged the constitutionality of this article in various press releases and reports. In keeping with this view the Center filed appeals with the Constitutional Court in five cases it has been defending of journalists prosecuted under Article 195, namely the cases of Mahmud al-Tuhamy, chair and editor-in-chief of Rose al-Youssef, 'Abd al-'Aal al-Baqury, editor-in-chief of al-Ahali, Mahmud al-Maraghy, former editor-in-chief of al-'Arabi, 'Eisam al-Din Rifa'at, editor-in-chief of al-Ahram al-Iqtisadi, and Mahmud Baqury, editor-in-chief of Sawt Helwan.

The courts accepted the defense and suspended the cases pending a ruling of the Constitutional Court.

CHRLA, while expressing its satisfaction with the ruling, calls on the Egyptian government to abide by its international obligations and reconsider all legal provisions that restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Egypt, and to abide by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In particular, CHRLA calls on the government to:

1) Remove all legal restrictions on the right to publish and own newspapers or magazines, and put an end to the government's monopoly over national newspapers.

2) Amend of the vague and restrictive articles in the Code of Criminal Procedures, the Penal Code, the Publications Law and the Censorship of Artistic Production Law.

3) Abolish all custodial penalties related to press offenses.

4) Abolish all legal provisions that allow the trial of journalists before military courts.

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