Following the first two sessions of the newly elected parliament, Parliament Secretary-General Ahmed Saad El-Din decided Tuesday to ban live television broadcasting of the sessions.
The ban will be enforced until parliament has finished reviewing all presidential decrees and governmental regulations invested with the full force of law that have been issued since 3 July 2013.
According to the rules governing parliamentary procedure, as stipulated by the 2014 Constitution, the MPs cannot amend decrees, but can only approve or reject them passing them into legislative laws.
The secretary general announced that the sessions will continue to be recorded. However, only parts of them will be broadcasted to the public, adding that the decision is temporary and does not contradict the constitution. He argued that media personnel are still allowed to cover the sessions.
The ban on live broadcasting of the proceedings was publically announced Monday after Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said that live coverage caused some members to attempt to monopolise the discussions.
A petition to end television broadcast was signed by more than 40 members of the parliament, and approved by Abdel Aal, after several attempts to control disputes and arguments by the members.
However, the parliament speaker said reporters will be still able to cover the sessions. Contradictory statements from officials at Egyptian state television asserted that the live broadcast would continue.
The decision was criticised by MP Haythim Al-Hariri, who wrote on Facebook that “banning is not the answer, and what is needed is a democratic and transparent method to operate the sessions from the parliament speaker”.
However, state-supporter Moustafa Bakry said in a televised interview that the ban aims to limit “disturbance” and avoid unnecessary interruptions.
He added that “the philosophy of this decision is related to the challenges to the Egyptian state. We don’t want the Egyptian citizen to see the arguments made between parliament’s members“.
The Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) filed a lawsuit against the president, the Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and the Secretary General of the House of Representatives, calling to broadcast the parliament’s general sessions, and to create a website to publish and archive all the sessions’ content.
The parliament administration released three statements regarding the television broadcast. One statement noted that certain members inside the parliament seek to prohibit the airing of the sessions. In the second statement, the administration said the sessions’ discussions would be summarised and published. In the third statement, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mohamed Al-Awadi said the MPs are in charge of broadcasting the sessions.
Disorder and heated arguments dominated the first two sessions. The live broadcast caught members talking about food and compensations.
AFTE stated that broadcasting the sessions will raise legal awareness, create compliance with laws, allow stakeholders to respond to and comment on parliamentary discussions, prevent rumours about sessions, and allow citizens to hear the MPs’ discussions regarding Egypt’s affairs.
In a recent development, the parliament rejected the resignation of member and former candidate for the parliamentary speaker position Kamal Ahmed, who announced his resignation Tuesday, citing health issues as the reason for his exit from the political sphere.
Abdel Aal said Ahmed’s participation will “enrich the parliamentary life”.
Ahmed lost the parliamentary speaker elections to Abdel Aal Sunday during the inaugural congress of the parliament.
Ahmed had been sworn into parliamentary office during the inaugural session, along with the rest of the newly elected members of parliament. He ran as independent candidate in Alexandria.
Ahmed expressed his opinion on the way in which the first parliamentary sessions developed in comment to his colleagues inside the parliament.
Ahmed criticised the performance of MPs during the procedural sessions on Sunday and Monday, describing the scene as a “circus”.
MP Salah Issa said that he, along with 40 other MPs, addressed parliamentary speaker Abdel Aal, demanding that he freeze Ahmed’s resignation. MP Ahmed Mortada Mansour said: “We are supposed to penalise MPs who disturb parliamentary sessions. We do not need more obstacles moving forward.”
Ahmed Mortada Mansour is the son of controversial MP Mortada Mansour who disturbed the first parliamentary session by refusing to adhere to the official oath of parliamentary office, deviating to make aggressive statements in opposition to the 25 January Revolution.