The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) expressed its concern over a proposed law that would criminalise graffiti.
ANHRI said on Wednesday that the law, announced by interim Minister of Local Development Adel Labib, would seek to punish those “writing abusive language on the walls of government and private buildings.” The punishment could land offenders in jail for four years along with a EGP 100,000 fine, as well as “confiscation of tools used for drawing or writing.” The minister also announced the formation of neighbourhood committees to monitor such activity, according to ANHRI.
The rights group is anxious about the law as it was “drafted in secret” and without being put to public opinion. The group said in a statement that it “strongly deplores the insistence of the Egyptian authorities to blur the facts and conceal the landmarks of the people’s revolution and what happened from these events.”
ANHRI believes the law “comes in a series of laws repressing and restricting freedoms issued by the Egyptian authorities.” The group pointed to the amendments made to the penal code, approved by interim President Adly Mansour, which extended pre-trial detention to 45 days. ANHRI also pointed to the controversial Protest Law as an example of this.
Many of Cairo’s government buildings have been painted with graffiti, some of which uses offensive language in both Arabic and English. The walls of Mohamed Mahmoud Street in downtown Cairo are covered with colourful murals and images depicting the faces of people who have died since the 25 January Revolution as well as those who died in the two and half years since. The graffiti has been painted over by the government, only to be replaced by fresh illustrations.
“The art of graffiti and writing on walls is one of the great achievements of the Egyptian revolution,” said ANHRI. “Activists, graffiti artists and political movements took advantage of walls as a means to express their opinion and document the events of the revolution away from the cascading lies of the Egyptian authorities,” said the group.
ANHRI warned that the interim government “can go in the footsteps of its predecessor and try to issue laws. It will not succeed in their application and will not succeed in confiscating the gains of the revolution in doing so.” The group also made a direct plea to Mansour, asking him to “stop expanding his use of the power of legislation temporarily granted to him” and to see that it is “not used in the issuance of restrictive legislation and freedoms.”