Court strips actors, musicians syndicates of arrest powers

An administrative court has annulled a ministerial decision to grant powers of arrest to the musicians and actors syndicates, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).

Last September, then-Minister of Justice Ahmed al-Zend issued a decree granting six council members of the Actors Syndicate ­– including the syndicate’s president and secretary general – judicial police powers, to be used in instances where the laws regulating the syndicate, its memberships or artistic production have been violated.

In November, Zend granted three members of the Musicians Syndicate’s board the same powers during a meeting with syndicate head and musician Hany Shaker.

The same month, the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) and ECESR challenged the decrees respectively, arguing that they violate Article 67 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of literary and artistic creativity, as described in musician Ayman Helmy’s article published in Mada Masr.

ECESR said freedom of creativity is a branch of freedom of expression and cannot be restricted, especially by bodies formed in order to protect the rights of those practicing these art forms. 

It also said that syndicate members granted powers of arrest are not civil servants and have no supervisory authority, added that the roles they were elected to fulfill are limited to serving syndicate members. 

The case has now been referred to the Constitutional Court to decide on the constitutionality of the last paragraph of Article 5 of the artistic syndicates law, which limits the work of anyone in the music profession unless they are a syndicate member or have obtained a temporary permit for a specific engagement or renewable time period.

Violating the provisions of Article 5 of this law is currently punishable by imprisonment of between one and three months and/or a fine of between LE2,000 and LE20,000.

AFTE and ECESR described the verdict as a “victory for freedom of creativity” and a positive step to guarantee freedom of expression. 


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