News / Middle East

    UN Official: Egypt NGO Law Imperils Revolt's Ideals

    People accused of working for unlicensed non-governmental organizations awaiting trial hearings in a cage, Cairo, March 8, 2012.
    People accused of working for unlicensed non-governmental organizations awaiting trial hearings in a cage, Cairo, March 8, 2012.
    Reuters
    The U.N.'s human rights chief said on Wednesday Egypt risked betraying the ideals behind the 2011 revolution and slipping into authoritarianism with a new civil society law.
     
    The Arab country is at a "critical moment" more than two years after the uprising that ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, citing a range of social and political rights concerns.
     
    She singled out a law backed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) that she said risked making non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worse off than they were under Mubarak by imposing curbs including funding restrictions.
     
    The draft law being discussed in the FJP-led parliament also requires prior approval for many activities and has been criticized for posing a threat to people's freedom to gather in a common cause or interest.
     
    "This current draft law ... risks placing civil society under the thumb of security ministries which have a history of abusing human rights and an interest in minimizing scrutiny," Pillay said in a statement.
     
    FJP leaders have said the bill is still under discussion and that it will give NGOs freedom and meet the needs of society. Brotherhood and presidency spokespeople did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on Pillay's statement.
     
    Civil society groups faced funding constraints under Mubarak, and restrictions on them have continued to create tensions with Western countries that help finance NGOs even after his fall.
     
    Last year an investigation into the work of international NGOs, including some U.S.-based groups, led to a crisis in ties between Cairo and Washington during the rule of army generals who temporarily took over from Mubarak.
     
    Press Freedoms

    Pillay said Egypt needed a clear framework for civil society to organize and work, and that governments who tried to constrain such activities "risk slipping quickly into authoritarianism, even if that is not their initial intention."
     
    She also listed concerns including Egypt's contentious new constitution, the impunity of security forces implicated in abuses, lawsuits against journalists and activists and "apparent efforts" to limit the authority of the judiciary.
     
    Separately on Wednesday, Egypt's public prosecutor charged two journalists with "publishing false news that aims to disturb public peace and stir panic."
     
    Magdi El Galad, editor of the daily El-Watan newspaper, and Ahmed el-Khatib, one of the paper's reporters, were charged after the paper published the names of people Islamist militants had allegedly planned to assassinate.
     
    Several journalists, talk show hosts and comedians have been charged with defamation over the last few months, leading activists to accuse Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Brotherhood of trying to stifle their critics - something they deny.
     
    Heba Morayef, Egypt director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the Mubarak-era penal code, which attaches criminal charges to libel cases, was too restrictive and should be amended.
     
    "Locking up journalists is not good for democracies in general,'' she said.

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.