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Freedom of Information and freedom of expression are under fierce and sustained attack in Egypt, North Africa and the Middle East. Innovative solutions are required to protect our right of assembly, our right to dialogue, our freedom of the press, our right to form political parties, and our right to communicate with our global neighbors. Yet sometimes the answers are right in front of us.
Much has been written about how "Army and the people are one hand" in Egypt. Overall, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has exercised a competent and relatively benign approach to governing Egypt. Yet, lest we lapse into complacency, there are some warning signs, particularly in the area of free expression and freedom of information.
First, the right of the Egyptian people to organize themselves into political groupings of their choice is under attack. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September. This gives political parties only five months to form and prepare for elections. This short time line arguably heavily favors already established groups. New parties will need the approval of at least 5000 voters from ten of Egypt's 29 provinces. I attended a lecture at the American University in Cairo at Tahrir Square on Tuesday night, in which the Nevine Mossad, Amr El Shobaky, Samer Soliman, and Ibrahim El Issawy said that this provision also requires publication in two major newspapers. The costs for this kind of publication could run to one million Egyptian pounds, which will likely disadvantage new parties.
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