An administrative court annulled a gag order issued in October 2014 on all publications and broadcasts discussing allegations of rigging in the 2012 presidential race, which saw the election of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, state-owned Al-Ahram reported on Tuesday.
The gag order was issued by then-General Prosecutor Hesham Barakat, pending investigations.
The court stated that any restriction on citizens’ and media organizations right of access to correct information with no legal basis or justification is a violation of the Constitution. It is important for the public to know what happened during the presidential election in 2012, the court explained, and that if fraud was proven, the defendant – “whoever he is” – should be prosecuted. It clarified that the general prosecutor had overstepped the authority of the judge in charge of the investigation, which is also violation of the Constitution.
In October 2014, Al-Masry Al-Youm had published a teaser for an investigative report allegedly proving the rigging of the presidential election. The media organization later received notice of a gag order, before the report’s edition went to print and the investigation was omitted accordingly.
All heads of sectors, TV channels and radio stations were also instructed to stop discussing the rigging allegations. In June of that year, the Presidential Election Commission rejected an appeal filed by former presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq contesting the results of the election.
The court cited the right of access to information and highlighted the importance of the media in shaping public opinion, according to Al-Ahram.
“News and information that pertains to public affairs is one of the tools that shape public opinion,” the court stated. “Citizens and media have the right to reach out to sources to obtain correct information and circulate it and discuss it so that every citizen can shape their opinion with the truth, without any impediment on freedom of thought.”
According to details published by Al-Shorouk newspaper, the court declared that lack of information in the media leaves room for “lies and delusions,” ultimately undermining the credibility of media outlets.
“It also prevents the media from being able to defend citizens’ rights and freedoms,” the court added.