The country has never known anything like the past six months in terms of the sheer freedom of the media, President Mohamed Morsy declared during a meeting with a delegation from the Arab Journalists Union on Thursday.
Karem Mahmoud, the syndicate’s secretary general and financial secretary of the union, said that he called on Morsy during the meeting to halt the lawsuits filed by his office against media figures and journalists accused of defaming the president.
Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali responded to those calls in a press conference at the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace, claiming that “the president welcomes constructive criticism” and “is most keen on expressing opinions freely. [The Morsy administration] doesn’t object to criticizing opinions, but rather objects to false news that includes clear accusations against the president. Therefore, the legal affairs department has to press charges to prove if they are true or false.”
“Litigation is a right. Those lawsuits are part of it. We didn’t call for banning ideas or journalist’s right to express opinion. However, when it comes to accusing the president of being an agent for the US or endangering national security, it should be referred to judiciary,” Ali added.
“Everyone now knows the ceiling on these freedoms,” he cautioned. “No single exceptional decision has been taken yet against media. The first decision the president took was to ban preventive detention for journalists,” he added.
When asked if the president’s office would drop its lawsuit against Gamal Fahmy, deputy of the Journalists Syndicate, Ali said, “It’s up to the judiciary.”
The delegation of the Journalists Union was in Cairo for the elections of the union chief and general secretariat, which took place on Wednesday. Kuwaiti journalist Ahmed Youssef al-Bahbahany secured the chief post, succeeding the Egyptian Ibrahim Nafei, who has been in office for 17 consecutive years.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm