Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Egyptian Draft Law of Audio-Visual Transmission and Monitoring the Internet

By Alaa al-Ghatrifi 9/7/2008
Al-Masry al-Youm got a copy of the draft law prepared by Ministry of Media to organize the audio-visual transmission in Egypt, as the charter of organizing satellite transmission in the Arab region was not passed.
The charter was proposed by Cairo and Riyadh last February to Arab foreign ministers, and stirred strong opposition in Arab and international countries, and it was rejected by Lebanon, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain in the meeting of Arab ministers of media last June for the reason of restricting the freedom of speech and opinion.
The draft law which will be submitted by the government to People's Assembly at the next parliamentary term is a version of the Egyptian- Saudi- Algerian proposal to the council of Arab ministers of media last June.
The proposal included detailed points that expedite setting new firm legislations to implement policies of controlling satellite transmission in Arab countries, inter alia, national legislative rulings that correspond with the charter of satellite transmission.
Based on these legislations, a supreme monitoring authority will be established to control audio and visual transmission to maintain respecting the principles of satellite transmission. Ministry of Media sent copies of the draft law to different governmental parties for opinion.
The legislators of the draft law indicated in their introductory memorandum that establishing an authority to organize the audio and visual transmission is intended to stop airing live programs to the public that could threaten the public order and morals, thereby leading to disturbance of the country's safety and security.
The draft law includes 44 articles and is entitled as the 'draft law of the national agency for organizing audio and visual transmission'.
The first article introduces the definition of audio-visual transmission as airing, broadcasting, transmitting or making available any written or visual media material by any means including the internet and other regular transmission means.
The article states that the means of transmission and airing include any coded and un-coded transmission of sounds and images or both of them, writings of any type that are not considered of private messages, and allowed to be received and interacted with by the public, wire and wireless transmission through cables, satellites, computer nets, digital media or any such other means. Any processes of airing or transmission in which the receiver can choose the time and the venue of reception (mobile messages for instances) are considered broadcasting.
The first article included in particular the area which the law will be applied to in the 9th term entitled 'geographical region'. It stipulates the region as that which is located within the geographical borders of Egypt including the areas of special legislations for which licenses and permits are issued according to the law.
The 20th article indicated that the agency in Egypt will solely issue permits for broadcasting corporations and satellite channels and transmission authorities in Egypt according to the conditions and measures set by the agency board.
The 2nd article of the draft law determines the rules that providers of audio-visual transmission should abide by which include withholding any transmission that affects negatively on the social peace, national unity, citizenship, public order and morals. The transmission should provide comprehensive service to the public that correspond with the democratic progress.
The 3rd article defines the agency assigned for organizing the audio-visual transmission as a national agency for managing transmission utility termed as 'the national agency for organizing audio and visual transmission' which will report to the concerned minister of media. The agency will be a public entity and its headquarters will be in Cairo with branches and offices all over the country.
The agency will be managed as per the 12th article of the law by a board headed by the concerned minister, i.e. minister of media, and membership of agency CEO, chairman of Radio and Television Union or his designee of other state-owned entities which will be established to undertake current assignments of the Union, chief of General Authority of Information, representatives of the national security organization, ministries of interior, foreign affairs, communications, culture and finance, and six members (four of whom are experienced personnel of non governmental agencies or institutions, public organization or public sector, while two of them will be of public figures representing end users of audio visual transmission services).
The decision of appointment and wages will be determined by the Prime Minister. The organization structure of the agency will include a committee for granting and issuing permits of transmission means in addition to another committee to follow up the audio-visual content.
The law indicates the targets of the agency in the 4th article in five points: to organize and follow up all activities of transmission particularly the content of the product and its availability, distribution and receiving; to guarantee the provision and continuation of the service to meet the different aspects of usage for the purpose of sustained growth; to take necessary measures which ensure the legitimate competition in producing, airing, and distributing the audio-visual services; to avoid monopoly practices; and to achieve and implement environmental and technical criteria and quality standards of content, transmission, production, distribution and consumption in a way that corresponds with the requirements of maintaining social peace and values.
The 5th article states the responsibilities of the agency: to follow up the audio visual transmission services through different wire and wireless communications used currently or in future; to guarantee adherence to measures and criteria related to the content, production, distribution, protecting the community and its values; to protect juniors of contents of sex, violence and oppression, with full adherence to the valid laws in Egypt; to set laws and bases of granting permits and licenses; to determine the codes and measures of media ethical charter, and the special codes of financing or any other codes issued by the agency. These codes will be binding for the party the license is issued for.
The article included other responsibilities, on top of which is to set rules of granting licenses of opening offshoot offices for foreign broadcasting and transmission agencies in Egypt, in addition to granting licenses of importing, trading, manufacturing, assembling, or dealing with equipment and apparatuses used in audio- visual transmission.
As for financing the agency, the draft law states that the agency constitutes of seven resources of funding, on top of which the amounts the state assigns are in the general budget. According to the draft law, a board of trustees of not more than 20 members of public figures will be established. Decisions of appointment, wages and period of membership will be issued by the Prime Minister, based on recommendation of the concerned minister.
The board of trustees is entitled to set media ethical code and monitor of media on audio-visual broadcasting, morals of the media message and ways of adhering to this code. The agency is entitled according to article 13th to issue the measures that should be available in nets of transmitting, distributing and re-transmitting services provided by others.
Article 16th states that the agency will adhere to the principle of transparency by issuing periodic reports of activities of audio-visual transmission with no violation to requirements of confidentiality, and all transmission parties should adhere to provide the agency with any required reports, data and records related to activities.
The draft law specifies the administrative measures taken by the agency in the event of violation to the law of establishment starting from sending a warning letter to the violator, suspending the permit in part or totally for a certain period and finally to the withdrawal of license.
The draft law decides as per the article 32nd entitled; 'transitional rules' to set up a state-owned Egyptian company that undertakes assigned tasks of Radio and Television Union and holds all assets and entitlements of the Union. The agency will issue the licenses to maintain the transmission functions of the Union as free of charge for seven years of issuing licenses.
In penalties terms, the draft law states that trespass to any of the agency entitlements will be penalized with imprisonment and a fine of not less than LE 10,000 and not more than LE 50,000 or one of these two penalties.
Transmitting audio visual programs without prior licenses from the agency will be penalized with imprisonment for a period not less than two months and not more than two years and a fine of LE 50,000 or with one of these two penalties. Disclosure of confidential data and information on agency activities is penalized with imprisonment for a period not less than one month.