Government gag order restricts statements to the press

The cabinet recently circulated a confidential letter to ministries and government bodies instructing senior officials not to make statements to the press without official permission from their respective ministers. 

The order, which government sources have called "a copy of the instructions former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif issued on 7 October 2009," is causing tension between the media and government offices. 

The letter read: "According to Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's instructions, the ministers making press statements should be limited only to the policies, programs and specialties of their ministries. Also senior ministry officials and the bodies affiliated with the ministries should not make press statements without the permission of the minister in person and statements should be limited to the scope of their work".

Yaser Abdel Aziz, a writer and media expert, said the order violates press freedom. He also said there should be a law protecting the circulation of information provided it does not jeopardize national security to guarantee the press can make such information available to citizens.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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