The new law paralysing the Egyptian civil society
At the end of May 2017, the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi signed in a new law which radically limits the possibilities of domestic and foreign non-governmental organizations to operate on the Egyptian territory. On existing NGOs, it imposes an obligation to re-register, while any of their further operations must first be approved by a newly established National Authority, composed of representatives from ministries, the army and the secret service. The new rules concern nearly 50.000 non-governmental organizations currently operating in Egypt.
Further, without a prior approval by the National Authority, civic associations and nonprofit organizations are banned from accepting any foreign aid - may it be in the form of financial donations, human resources or partnership. Similar restrictions apply to local funding. In addition, without first getting a state approval, no organization can conduct questionnaire surveys or publish any research results. NGOs in Egypt can only perform activities that are "in line with the state's development plan, the nation's needs and its priorities." The punishment for those who do not comply with the law can range from a fine of up to one million Egyptian pounds (approximately 50.000 Euros), to a 5-year long prison sentence. A life sentence is not ruled out, either, on the basis of Article 78 of the current amendment to the Egyptian Criminal Code.
The law forms part of the current regime's targeted intervention against opposition voices. More than a hundred media outlets and websites have been blocked in Egypt during the past month, including the widely read financial newspaper “Al Boursa”. The situation is not better on social networks, either: only since April of the current year, dozens of people have been arrested by the Egyptian security forces for having expressed opinions on their social media platforms that did not go in line with those of the state.
The three-month state of emergency, which was declared after the April terrorist attacks on Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria, has been extended for another three months on July 4th. Despite the fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the Egyptian government is abusing the anti-terrorist measures to impose wide and often liquidating restrictions on the independent civil sector.
For more information about the issue, contact Zuzana Gruberová, Media Coordinator of People in Need's Centre of Human Rights and Democracy, +420770101144.