Impersonating a journalist: Toward a new enrolment law for the syndicate of journalists (Policy paper)

Prepared by

Mohamed Abdel_rahman

Mohamed Salah

Nour Fahmy

Eman Hamed

Mayada Megahed

Contribute in preparation

Ashraf Abas

Taher Aboel-nasr

Mohamed Ebied

Ali Atia

Fatma Serag

Translated By

Mohamed Ramadan

Ahmed Moustafa

Revised by

Mohamed Abdel_rahman

Director of Research and Studies Unit

Designed by

Ibrahim Saqr

Sherief Khalaf


Executive Summary




The philosophy of the suggested law draft

The legal basis for media and press freedom in the international charters and Egyptian constitution.

Critical review of the law no 76 of the year 1970 and executive regulation.

The Institutions entitled by the implementation of the law

New draft

New implementation regulatory draft

Conclusion &Recommendations

To read the paper in PDF format press here

Executive Summary

The significance of Syndicate of journalists is that it’s a legal frame in which journalists take shelter. It is supposed to defend them and their issues, but the current law of the syndicate (law no 76 of the year 1970) and the implementation of its executive regulation prevent this protection. The current law puts many obstacles for journalists to join the syndicate as the law sets conditions such as that a journalist should be a professional who owns a journalist archive, and should be a permanent journalist in a newspaper. Those conditions are very difficult due to the severe economic circumstances of Press institutions in the country, instead of that, journalism depends regularly on freelancer journalists. A huge contradiction also can be found in this law and its terms. The main contradiction in this law is that it only lets senior’s journalists to be registered and punishes juniors for practicing their career. It charges them for impersonation of a journalist, which could lead to a year in jail or a 300 EGP fine or both sentences.

The problem gets more complicated with online journalists, who work for websites and other online media outlets. While International newspapers like the “independent” are allowed to publish online, the law demands journalists in Egypt to be working in a printed outlet approved by the supreme council for media regulation (SCM). Thus, it can be easily said, that the law can’t keep up with the changes in the journalism industry.

On the other hand the law also requires that the news outlet in which the journalist is working at, to have no work related problems. The syndicate doesn’t register the journalists who work in institutions that violate the code of ethics of journalism, or when there is a conflict on the property of the institution. The law also prevents the journalist who works in an institution that didn’t pay the legal fees of establishment in the syndicate account from being registered. Also the syndicate requires a certain number of employees for each newspaper that shouldn’t be exceeded. It makes no sense that a journalist should pay the price for the institution’s administrative faults. The role of the syndicate should be to protect journalists not to put burdens on institutions’ shoulders with complicated registration procedures.

As a result of these problems and the obvious contradiction found in the law, there have been at least 12 journalists charged with “impersonation of a journalist” in the past 3 years. Some of them worked more than 10 years in journalism.

So the Egyptian Observatory for Journalism and Media (EOJM) seeks now to find solution to this contradiction in the rules of law with a new draft law for registration procedures in the syndicate. In order to write this draft we have held more than 10 internal seminars to discuss the current law and make suggestions about a new law. After that we conducted 4 focus group discussions with more than 50 journalists to present the first draft and make changes on it upon the journalists’ discussions, and suggestions that could be applicable.

The philosophy of the draft we made relied on guaranteeing an umbrella that protects all the journalists, legalizing their work to prevent the usage of the infamous charge of “ impersonating a journalist”, also to protect all journalists working in the field, whether they work in printed or online outlets

We have a parody, in which every journalist that is registered in the syndicate can have certain guarantees provided to him. All the journalists that are not registered have all the risks that might come with the practising journalism in such a country as Egypt, they are more likely to get charged with “impersonating a journalist”. After discussions we came up with the following suggestion. We suggested that we should develop a new sub roster which would be called the “Current practicing Journalists Sub Roster” which would include all the working persons in the field of journalism, even if they are not enrolled in the syndicate. Those journalists registered to that sub roster would act like a middle ground between professional registered journalists and non-registered journalists in the syndicate, they wouldn’t get the financial benefits but would have all the legal benefits.

Other current sub rosters in the law like “Apprentice journalists “, “ unemployed” or “affiliated “ should have the benefits of full membership and also the obligations of registered journalists.

The registration articles in the syndicate law no 76 -1970, from article number 4 to 20, we suggest that 12 articles should be amended, an article should be abolished, 4 articles should stay as they are, and one article should be added.

The registration executive regulation (31 articles), we suggest that modify 22 articles should be amended, 4 articles should be abolished and 5 articles should stay as they are.


In 17th of September 1970, the former president Nasser ratified the law no 79 for the establishment of Syndicate of journalists. The law was intended to defend journalists’ rights and guarantee the Journalists’ freedom so they can properly perform their duty, it should have worked as a guarantee to those journalists especially in cases of sickness, dismissal, and disability. Also the law was intended to ensure the full commitment of the syndicate to find jobs for journalists and also commitment to provide better economic circumstances for them.

After five decades from its issuance, the law showed less flexibility toward the developments in the journalism career on both political and legal level. And less flexibility towards the changes in the nature of journalism itself on the technological level. So there is an urgent need for amendments to the law because of its inability to cope with the political and technological changes. The law also violates the constitution and other regulations concerning the journalism field. The current law has also many contradictions which hinder the development of journalism. Due to these unfair conditions made by the law, the un-united journalists are more likely to get charged at any time.

There is an urgent need for a new syndicate law to reform the disadvantages made by the current one, and also solve its contradictions. This new law will have to solve these problems concerning the ununited journalists and provide an umbrella under which all journalists can perform their duty and have the right of free expression.

The importance of the syndicate is that it is the organization which provides the protection for journalists, defend them and their causes. But the law that regulates the registration of new journalists to the syndicate and its implementation regularly prevents them from being legally registered, although it is supposed to provide protection for them. The law doesn’t provide adequate conditions for joining the syndicate. For Example, article 5 and 7 of the current law, requires the journalist to have a regular full time job and have a journal archive. This- normally- requires to practice journalism before actually get in the process of registration in the syndicate. To be registered in the apprentice sub roster in the syndicate the journalist must do 3 months of press work in the institution which he works in (article 23 – implementation regulatory).

This shows a major contradiction in this law, as the same law restricts the work in the newspapers without being registered in the syndicate sub rosters, also the law restricts the owners and the chief editors of newspapers (article 103) from hiring any journalist that is not registered in the sub rosters. The law punishes any person who is conducting journalism activities without being registered with at most a year presentment and 300 EGP or both penalties.

These conditions make the junior journalists more vulnerable to exploitation by their bosses. These bosses use the policy of procrastination so they won’t pay full salaries and insurance contributions, and of course the minimum wage in the Egyptian law. They exploit the need for work and the scarcity of new journalism jobs to make the journalists suffer of severe economic conditions, these junior journalists who are also vulnerable to be charged with the common charge of “impersonating a journalist “


The problem gets more complicated with online journalism, the syndicate refuses to acknowledge the online websites journalists. So any paper or website which have no printed edition is not acknowledged officially by the syndicate. Although the Egyptian constitution (article 70) acknowledged the establishment and owning of online newspapers, and the law no 180 – 2018 for regulating press and media acknowledged it in its first article, but the syndicate law still refuses to register these journalists. The law still demands a paper journalistic archive as a condition to be enrolled in the syndicate sub rosters. These conditions prevents many online journalists from being registered1.

As a result to this problematic contradictions in the law, at least 12 journalists were charged by “impersonating a journalist “in the last 3 years. Among them are journalists who worked for more than 10 years in journalism. Thus the significance of the paper is to identify these contradictions in the current law, through that we can make suggestion for a new draft. The aim of the draft is to provide the legal and financial protection for journalists to be make them more able to perform their duties. The draft should be presented to the syndicate council and the judiciary committee in the serving Egyptian parliament.

The paper is divided into the following sections


The philosophy of the suggested law draft

The legal basis for media and press freedom in the international charters and Egyptian constitution.

Critical review of the law no 76 of the year 1970 and executive regulation.

The Institutions entitled by the implementation of the law

New draft

New implementation regulatory draft

Conclusion &Recommendations


Fair enrolment conditions for all the working journalists in different journalism platforms

Expanding the legal definition of journalists in law so It will be more consistent with the international standards

The philosophy of the suggested law draft

The philosophy of the draft relies on establishing a more cohesive framework to protect the journalists from arbitrary actions, this frame work should prevent the “ impersonating journalist “ charge from existence, and should make the online journalists more protected and have the same rights as the printed newspaper ones2.

We found ourselves if front of a paradox, every journalist that is enrolled in the syndicate have certain guarantees that the syndicate provides him, but all the journalists that are not enrolled have all the risks that come with practising journalism in a country such as Egypt, they are more than likely to get charged with “ impersonating a journalist “3. After discussions we came up with a philosophy that makes balance between both. It won’t give all journalists complete privileges, especially short -time journalists, but still it provides them legal protection. We came up with a new sub roster that we call ‘practicing journalists “which should include all persons willing to join the journalism field. The enrolled journalists in this sub roster are supposed to get all the legal protection but won’t get the financial benefits given to professional employed registered journalists. The main purpose for this sub roster is to legally protect journalists so they couldn’t be charged with “impersonating a journalist”.

other current syndicate sub rosters such as “apprentice sub roster “,” journalism related “,and the “ un employed journalists” should be treated as a full membership, with all rights and duties given by the syndicate. The draft also is consistent with the Egyptian constitution, and international charters of press freedom. We also maintained a full attention to what the current law should include, especially its consistency with the developments in the journalism industry.

The legal basis for media and press freedom in the international charters and Egyptian constitution.

There is no specific definition of the “journalist” on the international level, except for the “The International Convention on the safety of journalists and media staff independency “which defines the journalist as (Any person who contributes regularly in the process of gathering information, editing, and publishing it to an audience with any media outlet. This should include photographers, editors, translators, publishers, anchors and those who works in distributing4. This is considered a broad definition of journalism, and suppose to protect the right of expressing. Below, we will review the Freedom of the press and media in International laws and conventions5.

The legal basis for the freedom of press and media at the international and regional levels.

The UN assembly early recognized freedom of obtaining information, in 1946 resolution the UN General Assembly states that:“Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated6.

Freedom of obtaining information implies the right to gather, transmit and publish news anywhere and everywhere without letters. As such it is an essential factor in any serious effort to promote the peace and progress of the world” Freedom of obtaining information requires – as an indispensable element – the willingness and capacity to employ its privileges without abuse. It requires as a basic discipline the moral obligation to seek the facts without prejudice and to spread knowledge without malicious intent”.

Also in article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights which stated that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

The international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 19 stated that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.

There were farther confirmations in freedom of press and media, also about its relevance to promote development.  So, the UNESCO Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, apartheid and incitement to war declares in article 2 that “
The exercise of freedom of opinion, expression and information, recognized as an integral part of human rights and fundamental freedoms, is a vital factor in the strengthening of peace and international understanding. Also stated that “access by the public to information should be guaranteed by the diversity of the sources and means of information available to it, thus enabling each individual to check the accuracy of facts and to appraise events objectively. To this end, journalists must have freedom to report and the fullest possible facilities of access to information. Similarly, it is important that the mass media be responsive to concerns of peoples and individuals, thus promoting the participation of the public in the elaboration of information.”

Also the Johannesburg principles 1995 confirmed that, lastly The Camden principles 2009 on freedom of expression and equality which is considered a progressive interpretation for international standards of international law. It stated in the principle two that “states should ensure that the right to freedom of opinion and expression, through any medium of communication, including the right to information, is enshrined in domestic constitutional provisions or their equivalent, in accordance with international human rights law.7

On the regional level, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Article 9 stated that: “Every individual shall have the right to receive information. Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law”

Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam states in article 22 that “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Sharia”8

The the African Declaration Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa which African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted in 2002 stated that “ Freedom of expression and obtaining information, including the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other form of communication, including across frontiers, is a fundamental and inalienable human right and an indispensable component of democracy. And everyone shall have an equal opportunity to exercise the right to freedom of expression and to access information without discrimination9.

The Arab charter for human rights 2004 also stated freedom of expression as a right as article 32 confirms on the right of free express, and the right to get news and ideas and pass it to others without consideration of geographical borders10.

In conclusion all the international conventions, charters confirmed on the right of expression, Freedom of obtaining information imply the right to gather, transmit and publish news anywhere and everywhere, as it is an essential factor in any serious effort to promote the peace and progress of the world.

2- Freedom of press and media in the Egyptian constitution

The Egyptian constitution guarantees the freedom of press and expression, in article 65 “Freedom of thought and opinion is guaranteed. All individuals have the right to express their opinion through speech, writing, imagery, or any other means of expression and publication. Also in article 70, it stated that “Freedom of press and printing, along with paper, visual, audio and digital distribution is guaranteed. Egyptians whether natural or legal persons, public or private have the right to own and issue newspapers and establish visual, audio and digital media outlets. Newspapers may be issued once notification is given as regulated by law. The law shall regulate ownership and establishment procedures for visual and radiobroadcast stations in addition to online newspapers11.

The Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt also tended to demonstrate that right in its relevant rulings, which confirms on constitutional and legal frames that is related to freedom of expression as a whole. It confirms on the right to criticize public servants, and the inclusive nature of that right to all the Egyptian citizens12.

Also, the supreme constitutional court certifies this rights in all of its rulings, which also compels other legal and constitutional principles concerning freedom of press and expression. The court confirms on the right of public critical attitude within journalism. The supreme constitutional court also stated that there shouldn’t be any restrictions on opinions of citizens and publishing it13.

Also stated that, this freedom is essential to democratic regime, not intended to self-declaration but to react the truth through the diversified flow of information. Also stated that all opinions should be presented in a free atmosphere which may or may be the same, but should all exist so that all people should decide what is true and what is wrong. Also the supreme constitutional court stated that the constitutional protection of freedom of expression is intended to reach the public truth and deliver accountability14.

Critical review of the law no 76 of the year 1970 and executive regulation.

There are many problems within the current law, this brings major contradictions for the framework of journalism in Egypt, making the journalists more likely to be charged with “impersonating a journalist “, and the most important contradictions are:

A: Inadequacy of the law to the current political and social status

The law was issued under Nasser’s era, while Egypt was in unity with Syria, which could explain its regular mention of “ socialist Arab union” and the ministry of “ guidance “as stated in article 4, which obligates the enrollment committee to send a copy of its sub rosters to the union and the ministry. Article 13 also demands the opinion of the union to the new journalists who are suggested to be enrolled and registered to the syndicate. Article 16 demands the council of the syndicate to inform its final decision to the Socialist Arab Union within two weeks.

The big question is where is the socialist Arab union? And where is the ministry of “guidance” right now? These entities are history, they don’t exist anymore. But yet they are still stated in the law, as the law didn’t develop since that era. And there is major political and social changes that should have been included by now.

B: The inadequacy of the law with the technological changes in the industry

While the international press is getting in online totally and abandoning printing, the law still refuses to enroll online journalists. Which prevents many journalists from getting the syndicate’s legal protection

C: The paradox of which comes first: journalism practice or being registered in the syndicate

Which comes first? If anyone tries to have an answer, he will find a great paradox .the law demands the journalist to practice journalism (article 5) and have a journalistic archive (article 7) and should be appointed to a press institution. All of these conditions requires the practice of journalism before joining the syndicate. On the other hand there is punishment for impersonation of a journalist to all those who are not enrolled in the syndicate!

D: Dependency of journalists on the institution

There is a paradox of a link established by the law, in which it sets a condition on the syndicate not to accept any journalist from any paper that have financial or administrative issues or a legal case on the property of the newspaper. Article 15 and 114 of the law demand the paper to pay 1% of advertisement revenue to syndicate, and article 17 of the current law demands the council to not approve any journalist in a newspaper doesn’t pay this fees regularly. Or committed a violation of misconduct repeatedly.

All this problems is not directly related to journalists, it’s the institutions, so it is not reasonable for journalists to pay the price for the institution’s faults. The main task of the syndicate should be to ensure journalist’s rights and protect them from abusive institutions not to prevent journalists’ enrolment.

C: A limited number of members from each newspaper should be accepted every year

Article 9 in the executive regulation states that “the number of accepted journalists from daily newspapers issued editions should not exceed 30 journalists per year, from weekly newspapers issued editions only 15 and from monthly issued editions only 5 journalists to be registered every year. And for the first time issued newspapers, daily issued editions might register 60 journalists and 30 for weekly issued editions and 15 for monthly issued editions. Also the law authorized the council to suspend any newspaper from registering its journalists when the number exceeds what is determined by the law.

All these factors and conditions makes the current law a problematic one, this should be solved by the new draft we present. The need for a new law, makes it urgently required to amend it or change it to guarantee the freedom of press and journalists.

The institutions entitled with the implementation of the law

A: Syndicate of journalists.

B: Supreme council for media regulating.

C: The legislative committee in the Egyptian parliamentary.

A new proposal for the articles of registration under the law of the Journalist’s Syndicate No. 76 of 1970.

In this section, we propose substitute articles that should replace the current registration articles provided in the journalist’s syndicate law; we divided the page into three main parallel sections. In The first part, we present the current form of the articles in the Press Syndicate Law No. 76 of 1970 and In the second section we present the suggested form of the amendments needed, And in the third section we provide the reasons for the suggested form of those amendments.

Seventh: A new proposal for the registration regulations of the Journalists’ Syndicate



-law no 76 for the year 1970, on the link

2 – supreme council for regulating media, the law, on the link :

3 – law no 76, PR

4 -International convention of journalist safety and independency, on the link :

5 -international conventions for journalism safety , on the link ,

6 – universal declaration of human rights on the link :

7 — Camden principles on freedom of press , on the link :

8 – Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, on the link :

9 – The Resolution on the Adoption of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa which African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the link :

10 -: Resolution , PR ,

11 – Egyptian constitution, on the link :

12 – Egyptian constitution, PR

13 – Camden principles on freedom of press , on the link :

14 – case no 42 for year 16 ( judicial year ) , supreme constitutional court .

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