A gag order on Egypt’s nuclear power plant may not be legal

A gag order imposed on reporting about Egypt’s nuclear plant project earlier this week is not based on a judicial source as required by law, a senior official at the state news agency told Mada Masr.

The Middle East News Agency (MENA) had reported on Monday that all reporting about the nuclear project at Dabaa must be cleared by the Ministry of Electricity and security authorities.

The news did not specify the source or basis for the decision.

“An administrative source dictated the news to a reporter at the agency without an official statement,” the source said, refusing to name the body from which the order came.

According to Egypt’s Penal Code, the right to issue gag orders is limited to judicial authorities, but the decision was not issued by the public prosecutor nor any judicial authority, the MENA source said.

“The decision is not based on an ongoing case as the laws stipulate,” he said, “but is based on national interest.”

Mohamed al-Yamany, the spokesperson for the Electricity Ministry told Mada Masr that “the ministry’s relation to the decision is unclear so far, but commit to carrying out any official decisions in this regard.”

Gag orders can only be issued by investigating judges, the public prosecution and presiding judges, a high-ranking source at the public prosecutor’s office who asked to remain anonymous.

Orders may only be issued regarding cases for which there are court proceedings underway or investigations have started, and must be issued in the form of an official decree, he said, clarifying that this is not the case with the Dabaa project. 

“It is not clear how the decision could have been made,” he said.

Lawyer Ahmed Ragheb told Mada Masr, “ if the decision hasn’t been issued by the judicial sources specified by law, regarding an ongoing case and in the form of an official written decree, it cannot be used to impose punitive measures against journalists who violate it.” 

Beesan Kassab 

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