Egypt deletes classification of media as ‘terrorist entities’

Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy (2-L) formerly with Al-Jazeera, and his Canadian defence team lawyers Gary Caroline (R), Joanna Gislason (2-R), and his Egyptian lawyer Mohamed Hamouda stand during a moment of silence at the beginning of a press conference in Cairo on May 11, 2015 in honour of journalists killed in the line of duty. (AFP)
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Updated 12 February 2020

Egypt deletes classification of media as ‘terrorist entities’

  • Parliament added a new article that prevents a terrorist from transferring and receiving money and other similar financial services

CAIRO: The Egyptian Parliament is deleting the words “satellite channels,” “radio stations” and “social media” outlets from the definition of terrorist entities to prevent Western media attacking the state.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said the inclusion of “satellite channels” may cause confusion and, as such, there was no need to include it in the definition. “The path to media freedom is known to everyone, where all opinions respect the constitution, the law and national constants,” he told Parliament.
The decision follows complaints by MPs that naming television channels could be used to portray Egypt as a violator of free speech.
“The law will be promoted abroad as a means of repression if satellite channels are added, and we are not immune to that,” said Atef Nasser, who represents the Future of the Nation Party in Parliament.
“We are facing a fourth generation of wars and we have seen this through an attack on the state on social media platforms,” journalist Mustafa Bakri said. “But the formulation of the text in this way makes it an interpretation and, therefore, it must be deleted.”
The Rome-based International Federation for Rights and Development warned Egypt against trying to include audio, visual or print media in the definition of a terrorist entity, fearing it would lead to restrictions on freedom of information in the country.

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The International Federation for Rights and Development warned Egypt against trying to include audio, visual or print media in the definition of a terrorist entity, fearing it would lead to restrictions on freedom of information in the country.

Reporters Without Borders said last month that including news media to the list of terrorist entities would “explicitly” target journalists and “aggravate the already fragile press freedom situation in the country.” It ranks Egypt 163 out of 180 countries in its 2019 press freedom index.
Boards of sports clubs, sports federations and any entity designated for the public benefit will suspend the membership of terrorists instead of dropping their membership permanently in an attempt to portray the principle of the decision as being a temporary, precautionary measure.
Amendments submitted by the government also call for the freezing of funds or other assets owned by a terrorist, either fully or in the form of a share in joint ownership, the returns generated from it, and what is controlled directly or indirectly.
Parliament added a new article that prevents a terrorist from transferring and receiving money and other similar financial services.


US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

Updated 12 July 2020

US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

  • According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists are facing the possibility that their visas may not be renewed
  • The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities

DUBAI: The US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) might not renew visas for foreign journalists working at Voice of America (VOA).
The decision comes after Michael Pack joined USAGM as CEO last month, and fired the heads of four organizations: Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund. 
According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists working for the organization in Washington are facing the possibility that their visas, many of which expire this month, may not be renewed.
A VOA journalist, who asked not to be named, said it could lead to the departure of more than 100 staffers in the foreign language services, reported National Public Radio (NPR). 
The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities. Currently, there are 62 contractors and 14 full time employees at USAGM who are in the US on Exchange Visitor (J-1) visas. There are 15 categories under the J-1 visa, which is essentially a non-immigrant entry permit for individuals with skills who are approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. It is worth noting that the J-1 is among the visas that were banned by the administration of President Donald Trump in response to the coronavirus disease pandemic, with the administration suggesting holders take jobs away from US citizens.
A USAGM spokesperson told VOA that the agency was conducting a case-by-case assessment of J-1 renewal applications, and so far none of the journalists seeking J-1 extensions appears to have been rejected outright. The spokesperson added said the visa review is aimed at improving agency management, protecting US national security and ensuring that hiring authorities are not misused.
Media organizations have spoken out against the news. “This reported decision puts the lives of intrepid, free-thinking foreign journalists at risk. Many of these journalists have worked with VOA precisely because it offers them the opportunity to report stories that they cannot tell in their home countries without risk of severe punishment,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. 
“If these journalists are forced to return home, some of them will be greeted with jail cells or worse. It is appalling that the VOA’s new boss could be so reckless about the safety of journalists who have given their talents and insights to help the US inform the global public. These journalists deserve protection, not betrayal,”
The National Press Club, which represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide, also spoke out. “We know of no sensible reason to deny VOA’s foreign journalists renewed visas. These men and women provide an essential service to VOA by reporting from the US and telling the American story to their audiences overseas. They have the language skills and cultural background to perform this work. They are not taking jobs away from American workers,” said its president, Michael Freedman.
At the time of publication USAGM had not responded to Arab News’ request for comment.