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 to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs