Proposed Freedom of Information Law for Egypt Released by the United Group, Supported by CIPE
Cairo, Egypt – On September 28, the Egyptian human rights law firm the United Group released a draft of a proposed law on freedom of information for Egypt at a press conference in Cairo. The program was supported by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), with funding from the U.S. Agency of International Development, as part of a three-year, private-sector-led effort to fight corruption in the country. The United Group has worked on freedom of information in parallel for a similar length of time, from the perspective of access to public information for journalists and media outlets. After the ground-breaking events of the January 25 revolution in Egypt, and recognizing the fundamental importance of freedom of information to establishing a democracy, the two organizations partnered to produce the draft law and urge that it be given immediate consideration by Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
United Group Senior Partner Negad El-Borai, the primary author of the draft law, introduced the proposal, joined by speakers from academia and relevant government agencies who lent their support to the effort. “Freedom of information is essential to democracy, and Egypt will not be truly democratic until freedom of information is guaranteed,” said El-Borai. “This proposed law represents more than three years of effort and the input of countless Egyptian policymakers, businesspeople, journalists, and civil society groups. It is vital for Egypt’s future that it be instituted right away. As United Nations Resolution 59/1, adopted in 1946 at the very first session of the UN General Assembly, states, “Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is a touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.” With Egypt now in the process of establishing a new constitution and new democratic institutions, freedom of information is that much more important to guarantee. Therefore, the draft legislation includes suggested constitutional language intended to codify freedom of information in Egypt’s new constitution.
The proposed law consists of 62 articles in eight sections. It establishes freedom of information as the default mode of operation for government, and goes on to identify which governmental and nongovernmental bodies are subject to the law, how they must make information available, and how citizens may access it. The draft law establishes an independent high commission for information with the power to adjudicate disputes over access to information. It tasks the high commission with spreading awareness of the importance of freedom of information and with training relevant officials in their obligations under the law. Finally, the law establishes fees and penalties for violation of the law, including possible criminal prosecution.
A copy of the proposed law can be found online.
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