[JURIST] Egypt President Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] issued a new law on Thursday that bans pre-trial detentions of journalists for speaking out against the government. The new law, the first decree Morsi has issued since he granted himself executive and legislative powers last week [JURIST report], ends the Mubarak-era practice of jailing journalists who commit so-called “publication offenses” [Al Ahram report] which include “offending the president of the republic.” Morsi announced this new law in the wake of the arrest and detention of opposition newspaper editor Islam Afifi on charges of publishing false information about Morsi. Egyptian security officials confirmed on Thursday that Afifi has been released from detention [AFP report]. Afifi, the editor of the newspaper El Dustour [media website, in Arabic] has been criticized by Islamists [AP report] for allegedly making inflammatory statements against the Muslim Brotherhood [NYT backgrounder]. Morsi issued the law just hours after a court in Cairo convicted Afifi, sparking outrage amongst activists calling for freedom of the press.
Last week an Egyptian lawyer challenged Morsi’s self-grant of legislative and executive powers [JURIST report] in a Cairo court. Last month Morsi ordered the release [JURIST report] of 572 people convicted in tribunals by the Egyptian military. Earlier in July, a few days after he was sworn in, Morsi issued a decree [JURIST reports] calling the dissolved Egyptian parliament back into session, despite a previous ruling by the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] dissolving it due to its finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally [JURIST report]. The court suspended Morsi’s decree two days later, after which Morsi vowed that he would respect the ruling [JURIST reports]. A court struck down [JURIST report] a government decree in June that restored broad arrest powers to Egyptian military officials. Days before its dissolution, the Egyptian parliament elected a new constitutional council after lawmakers finally reached an agreement [JURIST reports] on the political composition of the council. In April the country’s Administrative Court effectively suspended [JURIST report] the work of the 100-member council responsible for drafting the country’s new constitution after ruling in favor of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the formation of the panel.