The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) has filed two lawsuits before the Administrative Judiciary Court against both speakers of the House of Representatives (lower house of parliament) and the Senate (upper house of parliament), challenging the negative decision not to broadcast the parliamentary sessions on television and digital platforms or to publish them in writing in the Official Gazette. The first case, filed against the speaker of the House of Representatives, carried No. 46322 of 75, while the second, filed against the speaker of the Senate, carried No. 46319 of 75.
In its lawsuits, AFTE stressed the importance of ensuring multiple forms of making the parliamentary sessions available to the public, by broadcasting them on television, posting them on the official websites of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and publishing them in writing in the Official Gazette. AFTE believes that making these sessions available would guarantee public oversight over MPs and would enhance the political participation of citizens. Voting in parliamentary elections is usually based on knowledge of the MPs’ performance and the different positions of political parties, something which would be enhanced by following up the sessions of the two chambers of parliament.
The two lawsuits are based on Article 120 of the constitution which states that “the sessions of the House of Representatives shall be held in public. The House may hold a secret session at the request of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House, or at least twenty of the House members. By the majority of its members, the House shall decide whether the discussion in question is to be conducted in a public or a secret session”. This article also applies to the Senate, which was created within the framework of the constitutional amendments carried out in 2019. Article 254 of the constitution states: “The provisions of the Constitution shall apply to the Senate in articles 103, 104, 105, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121 (paragraphs 1 and 2), 132, 133, 136 and 137, in a manner not inconsistent with the provisions of this section, provided that the competencies prescribed in the aforementioned articles shall be exercised by the Senate and its Speaker.”
AFTE pointed out that making the parliamentary sessions available, by broadcasting them on television or posting them online, is the safest method in light of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. It argued that the precautionary measures in place make it difficult for journalists and the public to attend the sessions. AFTE noted that the attendance by some journalists of the parliamentary sessions is based on their constitutional and legal right to practice their work, but it does not fully achieve the principle of publicity, as it is impossible for all representatives of newspapers, websites, and TV stations to attend the sessions of the two chambers of parliament. Moreover, each media outlet has its own editorial policy that may restrict, or even ban, the publication of some legislative developments, thus depriving citizens of access to information.
AFTE also noted that parliamentary sessions are made available in several countries, such as Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, something which enables citizens to directly access the sessions without waiting for media outlets to relay them. “It is necessary for the Egyptian parliament, which has a long history extending to one hundred and fifty years back, to be equally transparent as parliaments of democratic countries, and to advocate transparency and political participation, thus enhancing development and stability in Egypt,” AFTE stated in its lawsuits.
AFTE publishes the texts of the two lawsuits in order to allow citizens and members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to join the case. It calls on all MPs and leaders of political parties to support its call for broadcasting the parliamentary sessions.
To read the lawsuit demanding the broadcast of the House of Representatives’ sessions, click here
To read the lawsuit demanding the broadcast of the Senate’s sessions, click here