Head of the Egyptian Parliament’s religious committee Amr Hamrouch presented a draft law calling for a jail sentence of three to five years for anyone who defames a historical figure, as well as fining them between LE 100 thousand and LE 500 thousand.
In an interview with Masrawy, Hamourch said that the law is intended to protect Egypt’s tourism, adding that a lot of other countries have laws criminalizing insults against famous figures.
On what encouraged him to create the law, Hamrouch said “A lot of people seeking fame have been repeatedly insulting several historical figures, who have played an important role in Egypt’s history, accusing them of outrageous things, all to seek revenge and destroy the image of Islamic and historical figures. So I felt the need to defend those figures.”
Hamrouch continued to add that lately, attempts to destroy the reputation of famous Egyptian figures have increased, including the time when Hatshepsut was accused of not being a proper Pharaoh, affecting tourism and casting doubts over the integrity of Egypt’s monuments, as well as the time when Egyptian ruler Ahmed Orabi was accused of conspiring with the British.
The law draft faced backlash and was accused of restricting freedom of expression, to which Hamrouch replied that a lot of grand countries have had laws criminalizing insulting sports and artistic figures, and that “We have to work on preserving the legacy of historical, national and educational figures such as Ramses, Zuweil and Magdy Yaacoub. All claims that the law is trying to shut mouths are not true.”
Finally, Hamrouch detailed the law’s punishments, explaining that the 3-5 year jail sentence and its accompanying fine only apply when defaming the figure for the first time. However, if the offended defames the same figure or another figure of similar status again, the punishment would reach a 5-7 year jail sentence and a fine between LE 500 thousand and LE one million.
This is not the first draft law to face accusations of restricting freedom of expression.
In June, Parliament passed a controversial media law argued to restrict free speech. The law allowed the government to punish media outlets that published “false information” , with no detailed explanation of what that defined.
The law also made personal account/blogs with more than 5,000 followers a “media outlet” extending the government’s reach not only to news outlets but to public figures as well.
The Egyptian Syndicate of Journalists called the law an “assault on the Egyptian constitution” that “opens the door for the Egyptian government to dominate the press.”