Facing increasing violence in North Sinai, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has signed a controversial and wide-ranging anti-terrorism bill that will have a significant and detrimental impact on press freedom.

The Egyptian press environment is already highly repressive with or without this new legislation.

Mohamad Elmasry, University of Alabama

The law, which critics say defines terrorism too broadly, will see journalists and news organisations fined a minimum of $25,000 if they publish information that contradicts the government's narrative.

The fines, which could reach as much as $64,000, could shut down small newspapers and deter larger ones from independently reporting on attacks and operations against armed fighters.

Also in the new bill, those who lead what the government considers "terrorist organisations" will receive a mandatory death sentence; special courts, which will be closed to the public, will be set up to expedite terrorism trials, and the government will expand its surveillance powers.

In a country where press freedom has long been under fire, the new law spells more trouble for anyone who veers from the government script on issues relating to national security.

Even visiting a website that the government deems to be spreading "terrorist messages" can land you five years in jail. Some would say the law is largely unnecessary with the majority of local journalists already in lock step with Sisi's government.

Assessing the consequences of Egypt's new terror law for the media are: Professor Dalia Fahmy of the University of Long Island; Professor Mohamad Elmasry of the University of Alabama; Omar Ashour, the author of The De-Radicalization of Jihadists; and Rana Allam, a journalist and former editor of Daily News Egypt.

Source: Al Jazeera