Closed-door sessions create ripples within 50-member committee

The decision to vote on the draft constitution in closed-door sessions continues to face opposition as the committee of 50 begins discussions on articles pertaining to rights and freedoms.

Some members of the committee tasked with amending the constitution objected Sunday to the ban on the media and reserve members from attending the sessions, Al-Ahram reported.

According to the state-owned daily, members who are opposed to the decision include head of the Lawyers’ Syndicate Sameh Ashour and head of the Journalists’ Syndicate Diaa Rashwan, who demanded that the media and reserve members be allowed to attend the sessions without voting.

Sources said that committee head Amr Moussa promised to look into the matter during a meeting with the committee’s bureau, to which Ashour objected saying it concerns the whole of the membership rather than the bureau, according to Al-Ahram.

In a closed-door meeting Sunday, the committee began voting on articles pertaining to rights and freedoms.

On October 22, the 50-member committee began holding closed-door meetings to review the draft constitution submitted by the subcommittees.

Mohamed Salmawy, the committee’s media spokesperson, said the decision to hold the closed-door sessions came to prevent the media from publishing conflicting reports that might cause confusion, according to news reports. A press conference is held following each session instead.

Salmawy said that while the sessions are closed, they are not secret and that all details are announced during the press conference. Session are also recorded for archives, he assured. He also lauded the role of the reserve members but said that the presidential decree stipulated that only the original members have voting rights.

Salah Abdel Maaboud, a reserve member, said that committee bylaws and the presidential decree dictate that reserve members are allowed to attend all sessions and discussions, though they are not allowed to vote.

The final draft of the new constitution is slated to be ready by December 3, according to Salmawy.

The committee, appointed on September 1 by the interim government installed after former President Mohamed Morsi’s July 3 ouster, has been redrafting the 2012 Constitution ratified last year under the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president. This new draft is based on a set of key articles drafted this summer by the committee of 10.

The drafting process has been the subject of intensely heated debate, particularly in regards to controversial articles on religion, while articles relating to the rights and privileges of the military have remained largely undiscussed.

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