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Conference Discusses Freedom of Opinion and Expression

"Freedom of Opinion and Expression in the New Egyptian Media System" is the title of a conference which took place on October 14 and 15, 2014 in Cairo, organized by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) in cooperation with the Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF).

In the opening session, Mr. Hafez Abu Seada, Chairman of the EOHR said that this is the first time that the Egyptian constitution ensures the independence and neutrality of all state owned press and media institutions, as media for all Egyptians. FNF's Regional Director Dr. René Klaff noted that the freedom of opinion, the freedom of expression and press/media freedom are inextricably linked with one another. Together they guarantee the participation of citizens, and the civil society on the whole, in public affairs – and thus the functioning of democracy.

Mr. Essam El Amir, Director of the Board of Trustees of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) highlighted the importance of the freedom of media as a protection of all human freedoms and he said that the will of the Egyptian state guarantees the freedom of opinion and expression and that media professionals are responsible for constructing frame for their work.

"Freedom of society lies in the freedom of media", those were the words by Mr. Essam El-Amir and that was the hub of the talk in the conference, that was the very demand of the 25th of January revolution. Despite the concerns regarding the legislations and the tools of enforcements of the media laws, the participants highly praised the 2014 constitution. Mr. Gamal El-Shaaer, Head of the Radio and Television Institute, ERTU said that "Egyptian media system independency is the reflection of the degree of independence of the society and that terrorism is not a license for the government to restrict freedoms". He added that media was the victim of political fluctuations and that the media system independence is not guaranteed.

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The conference urged that the media professionals have to pave the way out to ensure sound functionality of the media system. The two pillars of the media system's independence are economic freedom and self-governance.

On the other hand, the attendees demanded the update of the legislation to include the electronic press, amending the laws that restrict the freedom of media, opinion and expression, and to guarantee free access to information to ensure transparency, protection and proper work environment for journalists.

The restructuring of the ERTU is a substantial step on the way to independent media system. Self-regulation and training programs for the journalists are prerequisites to eliminate shortcomings in the media system functionality and to ensure professional journalistic performance.

Some 120 journalists, media experts, lawyers, human rights activists and academics participated in the conference.

Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty in Egypt :