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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs