Press briefing notes on Burundi and Egypt

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 7 June 2013

1) Burundi

We regret the promulgation on June 4 of a press law which could infringe on the freedom of press in Burundi. Back in April, the UN human rights office in Burundi urged that the draft law be revised to ensure its conformity with international human rights standards. Unfortunately their suggestions do not appear to have been taken fully into account.

We are particularly concerned that the new legislation defines far too broadly both the circumstances under which journalists can be obliged to reveal their sources and the grounds for restricting freedom of expression, which go beyond those foreseen in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We are also concerned that journalists are required to have certain qualifications such as a diploma, professional experience and a press card to exercise their profession. Those requirements do not comply with international standards.

Although we welcome the fact that custodial sentences have been removed in the new legislation, the fines that can be imposed have in some cases increased by up to 2000%. These fines could threaten the survival of some media institutions in Burundi

We call upon the Burundian authorities to revise the new law in order to bringing into conformity with human rights standards and, in the meantime, to implement the law in a way that protects freedom of expression, in accordance with international law.

2) Egypt

On 4 June 2013, the Cairo Criminal Court ruled on the case of the 43 NGO workers, all of whom were found guilty. 27 of the defendants were sentenced in absentia to five years imprisonment. The other defendants received different sentences.

The verdict is based on an article of the penal Code (which dates back to the Mubarak era) that is vaguely worded and has often been interpreted in ways that have led to severe limitations of the right to freedom of association. Provisions regulating the right to association should be interpreted and implemented in conformity with the relevant international jurisprudence. Restrictions should only be imposed in line with international human rights obligations, especially Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Egypt in 1982.

The High Commissioner is very concerned about this verdict. We understand that the defendants are appealing, and we will continue to follow the case closely.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org); C├ęcile Pouilly (+41 22 917 93 10 / cpouilly@ohchr.org);or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9434 / ethrossell@ohchr.org)

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