Egypt/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.4 Literature and libraries

Under Press Law 20 of 1936 the Council of Ministers is entitled to ban any publication issued overseas to be circulated or reprinted in Egypt.

Article 10 of this law entitles the Interior Minister to ban any edition of any newspaper issued outside Egypt to enter or be circulated in Egypt.

The emergency law imposed for over thirty years up until 14 November 2013 entitles the Republic's President to censor, confiscate, suspend and close the printing facilities of newspapers, publications, printed materials, documents, drawings and all forms of expression, publicity and advertisement before being printed.

Press Law 20 of 1936 permits the confiscation of newspapers in case of violating article 4, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17 or 19 or in case of committing any of the crimes specified in chapter fourteen of book two of Penal Code pertaining to crimes and misdemeanors committed via the press or other.

Under the same law, the newspaper issuance decision may be cancelled in two cases: first if the newspaper is not issued within the three months following its issuance notice (article 18), and second if its issuance is not regular as stated in the notice.

Chapter fourteen of Pena Code has many provisions that stipulate imposing prison terms for not only press-related crimes but also for cases related to freedom of expression:

Articles 171-200 of the said chapter impose prison terms for vague crimes that may have different interpretations such as "incitement to overthrow the regime" and "changing the main principles of the constitution" (article 174), "hating or disdaining a sect" and "disturbing public peace" (article 176), violation of morals", "damaging the country's reputation" and "displaying improper aspects" (article 178) and "insulting the Republic's President" article (179)[1].

The Ministry of Information has two censorship departments, one for foreign printed materials and newspapers that enter Egypt or printed in the country by virtue of licenses issued overseas and the other is for printed materials that are printed by virtue of a license issued by the High Council for Journalism. The censorship role performed by these departments often result in banning some publications or confiscating the printed material itself[2].

The have been no significant changes to the laws of publications and censorship after January revolution till present time.

Article 8 of the Cultural Convention endorsed by the Arab League in 27 November 1945 stipulates: "Each Arab League country shall formulate a law to protect intellectual property of all works issued or published in any Arab League Country".

On May 1964, the Arab League approved the constitution of ALESCO and signed the Arab Cultural Unity Covenant, of which article 21 stipulates: "Each member countries shall formulate a law to protect intellectual property of all works issued or published in any Arab League Country".

Thus all Arab countries are committed, pursuant to the said agreements, to issue copyright laws. Actually more than half of Arab League countries issued such laws and the first was the Ottoman copyright law issued in May 1910.

In Egypt, Law 354 was issued in June 1954 and later amended by virtue of law 14 of 1968, Law 34 of 1975, Law 38 of 1992, Law 29 of 1994 and finally Intellectual Property Law 82 of 2002.

Article 140 of Law 82 stipulates that the creative works of authors shall be protected and this protection shall include the title of the work is original.

No changes have been made to the laws of censorship and publications after the January revolution to this day. Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab had banned screening the film Halawat Rouh for what the Prime Minister’s statement described as scenes that oppose to public morals. However groups of artists objected to this decision and met with the Prime Minister in the presence of Dr. Saber Arab and then Egyptian Minister of Culture. Dr. Saber Arab, who said that a core of “artists and the public” would watch and evaluate the film. The film was also to be screened to specialists in psychology and sociology.  The Prime Minster stressed that “the State is against any artwork that violates the constitution.”    

[1]              Arab initiative for free internet

[2]              Violation of cultural rights, Dr. Abdel Khaleq Farouk

Chapter published: 01-04-2016