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With the violent radicalism and civil wars of the Middle East and North Africa capturing the attention of the world, the region's grossly distorted legal systems are being given short shrift.Egypt's government is perhaps the biggest abuser of defamation and blasphemy laws to suppress differing views. In January 2015, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree that permits the government to ban any foreign publications it deems offensive to religion, thereby expanding the government's already significant censorship powers and increasing pressure on journalists further.Though Palestine's attorney general is allowed, under existing defamation legislation, to hold a person for 48 hours of questioning, human rights groups have condemned the move.Naji's case, for example, spurred Egyptian writers, artists and filmmakers to launch a public campaign for greater freedom of creativity and expression.The key will be to remove the criminal element from defamation cases, and thus the prospect of imprisonment, and instead prosecute them as civil cases, with those found guilty of defamation being subject to reasonable fines.Compelling lawmakers to decriminalize defamation will not be easy.
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