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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid