Proposed Law Would Limit NGOs in Egypt in Much Same Way as Mubarak-Era Regulation

Legislation proposed by the government of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi seeks to regulate nongovernmental organizations in much the same way that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak's government did, McClatchy reports.

According to reporters for McClatchy who reviewed a draft, the proposed legislation is only marginally different from Mubarak-era regulation of NGOs — and in some ways is more restrictive. Among other things, it would distinguish NGOs based in Egypt from those with offices outside the country. In addition, domestic NGOs would have to limit their work to "achieving the interests of the society"; would be required to pay at least 50,000 Egyptian pounds (roughly $7,142) to register with the government; and would be required to have three-quarters of their staff be Egyptian nationals. Foreign-based groups, on the other hand, would be barred from engaging in "partisan activities that are practiced by political parties and activities that infringe the national sovereignty" and would be required to disclose all their funding sources to a newly created government steering committee.

While government officials argue that the legislation reflects the "openness of Egypt," they have declined to release a draft publicly until after the Shura Council, the country's only operating legislative body, votes on it.

Although Egypt briefly experienced greater freedom of expression, assembly, and association after Mubarak's ouster in 2011, Morsi's government has used a variety of tactics to intimidate those who oppose or criticize his government.

"There have been no major changes," said Heba Morayef, Egypt director of Human Rights Watch, who saw a draft of the law. "[The proposed law] still gives the government the power to restrict their activities and cut off funding."

Nancy A. Youssef. "Proposed Egyptian Law on Nonprofits Seen as Echo of Mubarak Era." McClatchy Newspapers 05/28/2013.