Parliamentary speaker warns MPs to stay mum on monetary policies

Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal has warned members of Parliament (MPs) against speaking to the media about Egypt’s monetary policies, saying any violators would be referred to a disciplinary committee.

In Sunday’s Parliament session, Abdel Aal said discussing the state’s monetary policies harms the national economy by putting the policies at risk, especially during “these fragile times.”

“I urge you not to talk to any media or journalists about monetary policies,” he told the MPs. “Whoever violates this will be referred to a [disciplinary committee].”

After facing backlash from MPs, Abdel Aal claimed that certain parliamentarians have joined organizations that train them to “criticize monetary policies and harm the legislative institution and national security.” He alleged there was a “systematic campaign.”

Criticisms of the Parliament become dangerous if they’re aimed at destroying the legislative authority, Abdel Aal continued.

“Some may say that this is a violation of freedom of expression, but freedom of expression should be responsible, and harming the state’s interests is not considered freedom of expression,” the speaker declared.

Abdel Aal’s remarks are the latest in a series of statements by officials, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, aimed at muzzling criticism under the pretext of protecting national security.

Last month, in the face of mounting criticism against the sovereign transfer of the Egyptian islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, Sisi urged the public not to talk about the issue anymore, and to leave it for Parliament to discuss.      

“All the documents tell me that they [the islands] belong to them,” Sisi said, explaining that the agreement was based on a presidential decree issued in 1990 that was sent to the United Nations.

He said the government has been studying the issue since 2014, but it wasn’t announced publicly so as not to sow instability. 

The following month, restrictions were imposed on all prosecutors across the country, stifling their voices on their personal social media accounts. The general prosecutor issued a handbook detailing guidelines for prosecutors to follow on their social media accounts, including a prohibition on posting or liking anything of a political nature.

Former Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend also formed a ministerial committee in mid-2015 to monitor judges’ Facebook accounts, submitting reports against dozens of them. Justices continue to be referred to investigation for their posts on social media.

Multiple gag orders have also been imposed by the general prosecutor, most recently on a raid conducted by security forces on the Journalists Syndicate earlier this month. 

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