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FOI Law Proposals Being Developed in Egypt

Source: freedominfo.org

Date: 14 October 2011

Qute a few proposals for an Egyptian freedom of information law are being drafted, most privately, but action on them is not expected until after a new constitution is adopted sometime late next year.

Transparency advocates are pushing for inclusion of a right to information clause in constitution.

The drafting of FOI law proposals is under way both within and outside the government, according to Randa Al Zoghbi, Cairo Program Director for the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

CIPE and the United Group recently unveiled their FOI proposal, on which they have invited public comment and plan to hold further consultations. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Other efforts are less public.

Working on their own versions are the Ministry of Information and Technology, the Cabinet and the Ministry of Administrative Development, according to Al Zoghbi.

In addition, the World Bank had international FOI consultant Toby Mendel of the Centre for Democracy and Law prepare a draft law, but has not released it.

A major concern, Al Zoghbi said, is whether the military will get a privileged position in the constitution that could trump a future FOI law. She also noted public interest in access to information about the private sector when it gets government funds.

Al Zoghbi said there is “a very good chance” that a right to information clause will be included in the eventual constitution. Drafting will be done by a constitutional committee that will begin work following the November elections.

CIPE also has published a background report “Freedom of Information and Transparency in Egypt” (Arabic/English). CIPE is a U.S.-supported organization that “strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform.”

Earlier Hints

Al-Masry Al-Youm reported in July that a Cabinet bill might be ready “in the next few weeks.”

The draft was being developed by the Cabinet’s think tank, the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC), in consultation with a group of human rights advocates, academics and journalists, according to the newspaper.

Mohamed Ramadan, executive director of IDSC, is quoted as saying that the law falls well within Egypt’s current democratic transition. “Providing access to information can be the best way for the government to strike accountability and manage expectations,” he said.

The article continues, “Ramadan hopes to reap the fruits of this collaborative effort, after at least 10 different failed attempts in the past to draft a freedom of information law.”

In addition, the article worries that “the political will is in question,” noting that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have urged the passage of a FOI law but that Egypt recently indicated it would not longer borrow from them.

An article by Taha Abdel Alim, appeared June 21 in Ahramonline. It begins:

If we want to safeguard the January 25 revolution from the danger of diverting from its main goal, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) must quickly issue a law ensuring freedom of disclosure and access to information. Freedom of disclosure and access to information would enable the media to investigate the truth while shaping public opinion, instead of propagating hearsay and slander without documented facts.