Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi signed a new anti-terrorism law Sunday that calls for the death penalty and life sentences for some offenses while also threatening hefty fines for "false reporting" on terror attacks.
Sissi promised in June to strengthen Egypt's anti-terror laws after a bomb killed the country's top prosecutor. At least two militant groups have claimed responsibility for the attack. But the president has blamed it on the Muslim Brotherhood, a group his government has labeled a terrorist organization and cracked down on since he led the ouster of Egypt's first freely elected civilian President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Under the new law, those who form or lead a terror group face punishment up to death. Financing terrorism can bring a life sentence, while inciting a terrorist act or preparing to incite an attack are also subject to prison terms.
For journalists, going against the official version of an attack can mean fines of between $25,000 and $64,000. The original draft of the law called for jailing journalists, but that portion was scrapped after an outcry from critics.
Amnesty International called the law "draconian" and said it "represents a flagrant attack on the rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association."
The Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Sissi last month urging him not to sign the restrictions, and to set free all journalists being held in jail in connection with their work.
The highest profile of those cases is due to come to a conclusion on August 29 with an Egyptian court delivering its verdict in the retrial of three Al-Jazeera journalists charged with supporting the Brotherhood. The verdict was originally expected earlier this month, but the court has repeatedly delayed the process since Canadian national Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian Baher Mohamed and Australian Peter Greste were arrested in December 2013.
The journalists, along with Al-Jazeera, have repeatedly insisted they were doing their jobs reporting the news.
The crackdown against the Brotherhood included violent responses to the protests that followed Morsi being pushed from office, leaving more than 1,000 people dead. Authorities have also arrested much of the group's leadership, including Morsi, and put them on trial in mass proceedings that have included death sentences.
Egypt has also seen a rise in militant attacks in the Sinai Peninsula in the past few years along with the emergence of attacks linked to the Islamic State group.