By Ahmed Elumami and Taziz Hasairi.
Tripoli, 11 January 2014:
Anger is rising on social media sites and among political activists at the . . .[restrict]amendment to the Penal Law passed a week ago by the General National Congress (GNC) imposing a one-year jail term for anyone seen to insult Congress, the government, the judicial institutions or any of their members. Insulting the flag and the state logo is also to be a crime.
The Penal Law already made it an offence to deliberately publish false news that was hostile to the 17 February Revolution.
“I resolutely oppose this amendment and there should be a discussion between the civil and political powers to discuss what was passed,” leading political activist Farida Allaghi told the Libya Herald. “Congress did not bother to talk with civil society organisations about this decision beforehand”.
Allaghi called upon the Supreme Council for Liberties to quickly condemn the amendment. The right to free expression freely had to be protected and the needed to be a popular movement to such attacks on it.
However, independent Congressman for Zawiya Said Jarjar told this paper that the law was to protect rights and was not intended to target individuals. He insisted, as a member of the Judicial Authorities and Justice Committee of Congress, that the law permitted people to criticise and state an opinion in a proper way so long as they did not lie in order to cause chaos.
Those who spread false and incorrect news should be jailed by the courts to protect the stability of the state, Jarjar said. Everyone had to stick to the truth, he stressed.
The amendment does not appear to fit with the GNC’s statement issued on Sunday on the demonstrations against it continuing in office.
Expressing satisfaction that they were peaceful and stating that that a committee is being set up to draw up an amendment to 2011 Constitutional Declaration to allow a presidential and fresh congressional elections if the constitution-drafting committee is not on track to finish its work by mid May, it also noted that the declaration guaranteed freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate. It said that it supported them.
Other points in Sunday’s statement included that the Constitutional Committee would be fully independent of Congress and that the Presidency of the General Staff take should steps against any military group violating military regulations. [/restrict]