Note: The following story and interview of Dr. Samer Shehata are from Al Jazeera English, and reposted here for this week’s poll: Egypt’s constitution. The Blogpost is reposted from EgyptSource, managed by the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Harriri Center. EgyptSource, a project of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, follows Egypt’s transition and provides a platform for Egyptian perspectives on the major issues – economic, political, legal, religious and human rights – that are at stake in the post-Mubarak era.
The Transparency Paradox: When Freedom of Information Endangers NGOs
By: Mehrunisa Qayyum Originally printed on December 12, 2011
Non-Egyptian activists and policy wonks are too heavily focused on the electoral politics of the Islamist Freedom and Justice and Nour parties. Many are still trying to come to terms with the fact that the Arab awakening has indeed elevated a variety of voices, some of which are less appealing to Western audiences than others. But in addition to energizing the political arena, the Arab awakening has had an equally significant, but less visible consequence: reactivating Egyptian civil society. Egyptian activists and public policy advocates attest to how the uprising has provided a much-needed jolt for civil society organizations that were dormant for much of Mubarak’s thirty-one year reign. In a new burst of activism, Egypt’s estimated 24,500 civil society groups are currently working to reframe the “how” and what of civic engagement by drafting new legislation like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with assistance from the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association (EARLA). If enacted, this vital new law will ensure the free flow of information between media and the newly formed government, an essential feature of the democracy Egypt aspires to become. As Egypt’s transition continues to unfold, watchdog institutions have an important role to play in advancing transparency and freedom of expression.
Given EARLA’s support for legislation protecting freedom of information, some were confused by the association’s decision to withhold the names of Egyptian civil society organizations with which it works. The decision to withhold this information was meant to shield Egyptian organizations from a harsh legal and regulatory environment, which a study by Peter Gubser has described as “one of the most restrictive in the world.”
Recently, the interim government…click to read more.