Media gag on Egypt-Russia nuclear project

Media gag on Egypt-Russia nuclear project
A sudden and ambiguous gag order on the details of the Russia-Egypt nuclear power project in Dabaa has sparked controversy and opposition by many people, including government officials.
3 min read
23 December, 2015
Russia signed two agreements to finance and build Egypt's first nuclear power plant [Getty]
A gag order has been imposed on news reports related to Egypt's recently approved Dabaa nuclear power plant which was signed with Russia last month.

Issued by the general prosecution on Monday, the order requires prior approval of security authorities and electricity ministry before publishing any media reports.

The decision was made following a meeting between President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and electricity minister Mohamed Shaker, who had recently returned from a visit to Russia.

According to a statement by the Egyptian presidency, Sisi and Shaker discussed the latest developments on the Russia-Egypt nuclear project.

However, electricity ministry spokesperson Mohamed al-Yamani has denied that the ministry had made any decision regarding the gag order, adding that the ministry would issue a statement on Thursday to clarify the decision.

The gag order was also opposed by several government officials, adding to the ambiguity surrounding it, especially following recent safety and environmental concerns about the nuclear power plant and the possibility of Dabaa becoming another Chernobyl.

"Even if these reports were the reason behind the ban, they should have explained the project more to the people and raised their awareness about its consequences instead of imposing a media gag," former adviser to Egypt's energy minister Ibrahim Assiri told Daily News Egypt.

"No country around the world imposes media gag orders on nuclear projects. This is a serious issue that cannot be accepted," he added.

"There should be public acceptance for the nuclear plant and we need to raise people's awareness. That is why media reports are important. They cannot build a nuclear plant against the will of the people."

There should be public acceptance for the nuclear plant and we need to raise people's awareness. That is why media reports are important.
- Ibrahim Assiri

Yehia Qallash, head of Egypt's journalists' syndicate, rejected the "unjustified" gag order, arguing that the general prosecution had no right to impose it.

Qallash told reporters on Tuesday that the syndicate demanded the freedom of information that would allow the people to learn about national projects.

"We do not welcome the decision because the nature of our profession is to inform the people," he said.

Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party (RDP), has also rejected the order, saying that the details of the project were already known to the public.

"The media have been discussing information about the plant for many years now," he said in a statement on Tuesday, calling on the government to clarify any updates regarding the project to put an end to the rumours surrounding it.

"We are looking forward to a new parliament where all topics will be discussed publicly and transparently and we do not want to be surprised with a media gag as a legal and constitutional tool to silence people," he added.

Last month, Russia signed two agreements to build to finance and build Egypt's first nuclear power plant.

Sisi had announced the project in February during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, when a memorandum of understanding was signed.

The plant is to be built in Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast in the northwest of the country.

Egypt laid the foundation for the facility during the regime of president Hosni Mubarak, ousted in January 2011, but work was halted due to disputes with local residents.