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Egyptian Journalists Cancel Strike

June 25, 1995| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

CAIRO — Egyptian journalists backed off a threatened newspaper strike Saturday after President Hosni Mubarak offered to negotiate changes in a controversial new law restricting freedom of the press.

The decision came in an emotional meeting of an estimated 1,500 members of the Press Syndicate, the national organization of journalists.

Mubarak, in an apparent attempt to head off the strike, made his compromise offer in a session with syndicate representatives on Wednesday.

Mubarak agreed to refer the new law to the Supreme Constitutional Court for a ruling on its legality and to form a joint committee of journalists, legal experts and government officials to come up with a comprehensive substitute press law within three months.

The government moves came in response to unprecedented criticism from both opposition and government-owned newspapers after the law was pushed through Parliament on May 27.

The statute provided for imprisonment of at least five years for the publication of "false or biased rumors, news and statements, or disconcerting propaganda . . . if it offends social peace, arouses panic among the people, harms public interest or shows contempt for the state institutions or officials."

The law also canceled previous prohibitions against administrative detention of journalists. Critics complained that it was aimed at reporters who have been digging into government corruption.

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