The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to enforce the live broadcast of upcoming parliament sessions, as well as to establish a website to stream and archive the recordings.
According to a statement by AFTE, the lawsuit has been filed against the president, the minister of legal affairs and the secretary general of parliament.
Local media reports have recently indicated that parliamentary sessions will not be broadcast live and that an edited version will be aired on television instead, under the pretext of maintaining the parliament’s “prestige.”
AFTE highlighted the need for transparency when it comes to ratifying legislation, explaining that this will build citizens’ trust with legislators and the legal system in general.
AFTE cited Article 120 of the Constitution in its lawsuit, which stipulates that parliament sessions should be public.
“Closed sessions may be held at the request of the president of the republic, the prime minister, the speaker of the house, or at least 20 of its members. The House of Representatives shall decide, by a majority of members, whether the debate under discussion shall take place in a public or closed session,” the article clarifies.
In its statement, AFTE declared that a decision not to broadcast the sessions live is in direct contradiction with the nature of the parliament’s role as outlined in the Constitution. AFTE cited Article 101, which stipulates that “The House of Representatives shall hold legislative power to approve general policies of the state, the general plan for economic and social development, and the state budget. It shall exercise oversight over the work of the executive authority. The foregoing shall take place in the manner prescribed in the Constitution.”
Since parliament is involved in matters related to general welfare and citizens’ daily life, AFTE argued, “How could members of parliament not do their job publicly? And what is the point?”
“This also implies that someone is afraid to broadcast the sessions, making themselves a guardian over the Egyptian people, deciding what should or should not reach the voters,” the lawsuit added.
The lawsuit also referred to the right to access to information, citing Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
AFTE explained that it is important to raise legal awareness, abide by the law, give stakeholders the right to respond and comment, and avoid rumors pertaining to parliament.
In 2012, a new satellite channel was launched to broadcast the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament sessions.
The state-owned Sout al-Shaab channel broadcast sessions of both houses of parliament and provided coverage of all their activities at the time. A TV program also aired after each session to comment on the discussions, and included a number of live interviews with MPs.