Journalists in Egypt will meet today (Saturday) to decide on strike action planned for this Sunday. They're protesting over a new anti-defamation law, which they claim restricts the freedom of the press.
President Hosni Mubarak has partially climbed down, sending the new-anti defamation law to the Supreme Court for review and promising to develop a new overall press law in consultation with journalists.
Egypt's parliament has passed new amendments to its penal code which journalists here claim will restrict freedom of the press.
The amendments, signed into effect by President Hosni Mubarak late last month, increases jail terms and fines for slander, and allows journalists to be prosecuted for criticising state institutions or public
The government says the amendments are needed to protect individuals from attacks in the newspapers, and the amendments are nothing new, just an updated version of existing laws.
In all democracies there are so called anti-defamation laws. What we are doing now is to raise, or to stiffen up the punishments which will combat defamation, slander or character assassination.
SUPER CAPTION: Nabil Osman, government spokesman, head of the State Information Service.
But the Egyptian Journalists Union has voted to stage a strike on Sunday June 25, and newspapers including state run dailies are expected to cease publication unless there is some easing of the crisis.
In response to public outrage the Egyptian government backed off by having the new laws referred to the Supreme Court for review.
"This hardening of the punishments has angered the journalists, and it showed that it could very easily be used to scare them or terrorize them or to affect their opinions."
SUPER CAPTION: Salama Ahmed Salama Managing editor of the government owned daily Al-Ahram.
The crisis has succeeded in bringing together journalists from both the opposition and government newspapers in an unprecedented
But with the latest government maneuvering to ease the heightened tensions it remains unlikely that the coalition will last.
If the strike does occur, it will be the first time that newspapers disappear off the streets of Cairo... an embarrassment the state is anxious to avoid.
It was this threat that forced the compromise on the new laws.
Egypt is the printing capital of the Arab world, with dozens of
dailies, weeklies, and magazines printed, distributed and sold here. And the government would like to keep it that way.