CAIRO Aug 23 Egypt's president, in his first
use of legislative powers he wrested back from the army this
month, issued a law on Thursday to bar the detention pending
trial of defendants involved in offences related to the media,
an official said.
The announcement by President Mohamed Mursi came hours after
a court ordered the detention pending trial of the
editor-in-chief of an opposition newspaper on charges of
insulting the president.
The decision may go some way to deflecting criticism that
the Islamist president, who took office on June 30, has cracked
down on media that is opposed to his rule.
"In the first use of legislative power, President Mursi
issue a decree with a law not to allow temporary detention in
crimes related to the press," presidential spokesman Yasser Ali
On Aug. 12, Mursi dismissed top generals who had led a
military council that ruled Egypt after the fall of Hosni
Mubarak last year and he also cancelled a decree the army had
issued that gave it legislative powers in the absence of
The army, based on a court order, had dissolved the
Islamist-led parliament shortly before issuing the decree that
was seen as a bid to rein in Mursi's role.
Mursi's move to scrap that order gives him both executive
and legislative powers. Opponents have accused him of
concentrating too much power in his hands.
State prosecutors filed charges against two journalists last
week, including Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief of Al-Dostour
daily, a vociferous opponent of Mursi and his Muslim
Brotherhood. A criminal court ordered Afifi detained on
Thursday, pending trial over accusations of insulting Mursi.
Judge Mohamed Shahin told the court that the case would be
adjourned to Sept. 16.
Speaking by telephone to Reuters after that ruling but
before Mursi's legislation was passed, Afifi described the
detention order as a "real test" and asked "every apparatus of
state to stand against attempts to suppress and silence voices".
In what critics said was an act to stifle the press, one
edition of Al-Dostour was confiscated this month, though some
copies still hit the newsstands. The paper is owned by the head
of the liberal Wafd party, a group that pulled out of an
electoral alliance with the Brotherhood.
Mursi drew further criticism when the Islamist-dominated
upper house of parliament, which was not dissolved, appointed
new editors to several state newspapers. Though this had been
common practice under Mubarak, critics said Mursi's allies
should not have followed the same practice in the new Egypt.
(Additional reporting by Mohamed Abdellah and Saad Hussein;
Writing by Yasmine Saleh and Edmund Blair; Editing by Myra