President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi discussed the issue of human rights and the “NGOs’ foreign funding” case in an interview on PBS Tuesday with TV host Charlie Rose during his time in the United States.
The president said that the Egyptian media does not accurately present the issue and does not properly reflect reality in Egypt. Media outlets in Egypt report whatever they want as there is no media restriction or dictatorship in Egypt, he said. All the Egyptian government is trying to do is reach security and stability, the president claimed.
Regarding the NGOs case, Al-Sisi said that the parliament is currently discussing an NGOs bill to regulate their work, as there is about 40,000 NGOs in Egypt offering services contributing to the country’s development.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Al-Sisi to order the justice minister to stop investigations into human rights groups in Egypt, referring to the government’s pledge to respect human rights defenders and their organisations’ work and to stop its crackdown against them in March 2015 at the UN Human Rights Council.
The president’s statements in the interview implied that the media is spreading false information about human rights conditions in Egypt as there is freedom of the press without any restrictions, thus allowing anybody to publish anything.
Of course, this contradicts with the real status of human rights in Egypt, as great numbers of activists have been detained over charges related to freedom of expression, as well as journalists who were detained for writing critical articles against the state’s performance in certain issues or topics.
There are several controversial issues in Egypt proving the state’s ongoing crackdown on opposition groups. Ahead of and during the April protests, security forces carried out extensive security sweeps and raids against human rights activists and opponents of the maritime demarcation deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
North Cairo Criminal Court ordered last Saturday that the assets of five NGO members, including Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid, be frozen, along with the head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Bahey El-din Hassan, director of Hisham Mubarak Law Center Mostafa Al-Hassan, and director of the Egyptian Centre for the Right to Education Abdel Hafiz Tayel.
The NGO members and organisations are standing trial in the “NGOs’ foreign funding” case despite the lack of any approved law prohibiting it.
The request to freeze the human rights advocates’ assets was submitted in January by the investigative judge against 13 people including NGO members and their families and five NGOs targeted in the reopening of the 2011 “NGOs’ foreign funding” case.
Several local and international NGOs have severely criticised the current condition of human rights in Egypt and the reopening of this case.