Update: Freedom of Information in Egypt

In early May, members of the People’s Assembly Human Rights Committee, together with experts, presented a government draft bill on availing records and information during a discussion at the Information Center for Technology.

The tension is apparent even in the language used in the bill’s title; it uses the word etaha in Arabic, meaning availing. Compare this with the draft law submitted by a group of civil society actors that includes the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, simply titled the Freedom of Information Bill.

The idea of access to information being granted rather than constituting a right informs several aspects of the government bill.

Egypt Independent is running a piece examining two Freedom of Information (FOI) bills under consideration by the Egyptian parliament. As previously discussed, new laws enshrining the right to information will represent a crucial step towards the establishment of a more open and transparent political system. When considered against the backdrop of a transition marred by secrecy, the necessity of this legislation grows starkly apparent.

A Freedom of Information law would be seen as one of the revolution’s most concrete achievements to date. Following the electoral success of Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak-era Prime Minister whose pre-eminence seems partly attributable to backroom deals straight from the ancien régime playbook, the passage of legislation minimising the ability of future political elites to conduct business behind closed doors would leave an important legacy for future generations.

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