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Egypt amends anti-terrorism law, eliminates jail time for journalists

Journalists will now be fined rather than jailed for contradicting the state version of armed attacks

Egypt's cabinet has amended a draft law so that journalists would be fined, rather than jailed, for contradicting the authorities' version of any armed attack, the state news agency reported. The bill, which sets up new courts for “terrorism trials,” was proposed after Egypt's top prosecutor died in a car bombing and 17 members of the security forces were killed by insurgents in the Sinai.

It has been condemned by rights groups, with Amnesty International saying it would grant President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “absolute powers” to crush dissent. One provision of the bill would have made it a criminal offence for journalists or others to report on attacks in a way that contradicted the official version of events, with jail terms of at least two years.

The cabinet spokesman told state news agency MENA that the article had been amended to replace the jail time with a fine of $25,000-$65,000. Human rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of widespread violations since the army toppled President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, after mass protests against his rule, and say the government has rolled back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that toppled the 30-year rule Hosni Mubarak.

The government says it is protecting the country from armed groups, including Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and fighters associated with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), active in North Sinai, both of which it classes as “terrorist groups.”

Rights groups say Egyptian prisons hold 40,000 political detainees.


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