Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cdn Reporter Once Jailed in Egypt Says Anti-Terror Law Enshrines Unjust System

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cdn Reporter Once Jailed in Egypt Says Anti-Terror Law Enshrines Unjust System

Article excerpt

Fahmy denounces new Egyptian anti-terror law

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A Canadian journalist branded as a terrorist by the Egyptian government says new laws passed in the country today make it likely that other reporters will meet the same fate.

Mohamed Fahmy and two of his colleagues with Al Jazeera English were jailed for more than a year after the Egyptian government accused them of supporting a rival political organization and undermining national security through their media coverage.

Fahmy says his imprisonment and two trials were governed by a set of unwritten rules that have now become official Egyptian law.

The new rules, signed into law Sunday night by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, define terrorism very broadly as "any act that disturbs public order with force."

Journalists are explicitly banned from reporting news that contradicts official government statements, and people found breaching the sweeping laws can face penalties ranging from hefty fines to lengthy prison sentences.

Fahmy says the new regulations enshrine the unjust system that's kept him in legal limbo for the past 2 1/2 years.

The laws, he said, virtually ensure his story will play out again.

"It wasn't written down in black and white. It wasn't all laid out. Now it's out in the open," Fahmy said in a telephone interview from Cairo. "It's very clear that if you don't toe the government line, you will be prosecuted."

Authorities in Egypt say the new measures will help combat Islamic militants, but international rights groups and even some Egyptian politicians and judges have raised concerns about the restrictive laws.

The 54-article bill prescribes stiff jail sentences for a range of crimes, including promoting or encouraging any "terrorist offence" or damaging state institutions or infrastructure. Some charges, such as leading or organizing a terrorist group, carry the death penalty.

The laws simultaneously loosens restrictions on law enforcement officials, with one article stating that there would be no criminal inquiries against those who use force to implement its statutes or protect themselves or property from imminent danger. …

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