Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued a new law on Thursday, cancelling the Mubarak-era practice of temporarily detaining journalists for so-called “publication offences,” including the charge of “offending the president of the republic.”
Morsi’s move comes after the editor of a local newspaper was detained on charges of publishing false information on Morsi.
The website of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported that the new law means that the Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief of the Al-Dostour newspaper, will be released.
The report said that Egypt's public prosecutor has already ordered Afifi's release. Earlier on Thursday, a criminal court extended Afifi’s remand. He is one of a number of journalists who have been charged with such offenses.
Afifi’s detention had sparked considerable controversy among local politicians and journalists, Al-Ahram reported. They saw the practice as a violation of basic press freedoms reminiscent of the ousted Mubarak regime.
Angry reactions to his detention had quickly appeared on Twitter under the tag “no to the imprisonment of journalists,” said the report. Several political groups issued statements condemning the move as well.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said Morsi's decision to abolish the practice of temporarily detaining reporters for press offences represented the president's first use of his legislative authority, which Morsi assumed earlier this month at the expense of Egypt's military.