Undersecretary of the parliament’s Human Rights Committee Atef Makhalif announced to local media that parliament would discuss an anticipated law for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during the first week of the second legislative term.
Makhalif told Daily News Egypt that issues regarding foreign funding would be at the forefront of their discussion and that the new law will include articles criminalising non-transparent foreign funding.
The MP explained that the government is not against allowing NGOs the ability to receive foreign funding. “However, there should be transparency,” he noted, referring to a number of NGOs currently being accused of receiving illegal funds and serving foreign agendas.
He also noted that enforcement of the law would be immediate and that any NGO that performs tasks other than those announced at beginning of its foundation, without notifying relevant authorities, would be held accountable.
Regarding the discussions on the NGO law, Makhalif said that several bills, including one submitted by the government and one by fellow members of parliament, would be reviewed during the discussion session.
Human rights lawyer and executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Gamal Eid previously told Daily News Egypt that the new NGO law will be more stringent than previous laws due to the National Security’s interference.
While the draft law has not been released to the public, Eid previously said he received a copy from the General Federation of Associations and Civil Institutions, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
Negative expectations have circulated concerning the new law among NGO members and opposing groups who believe that it will increase harsher restrictions on NGOs
NGOs have continued to call for the government to denounce the law, and have demanded several amendments be applied, expressing that it imposes restrictions on their work.
In mid-September, the North Cairo Criminal Court froze Eid’s assets, along with another four NGO members, including renowned journalist Hossam Bahgat, head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Bahey El-Din Hassan, Hisham Mubarak Law Centre director Mostafa Al-Hassan, and Egyptian Centre for the Right to Education director Abdel Hafiz Tayel.
The court’s decision came after several sessions reviewing the case, as all aforementioned names were accused of receiving illegal foreign funding. In February, an investigative judge submitted a request to freeze the assets of certain NGO members, in addition to requests for travel bans for those connected with the case.
The court’s actions sparked anger amongst several political parties, human rights activists, and civil society members who believed that it was an attack against civil society, especially as that the defendants were not formally investigated.
A week prior to the court ruling, the cabinet approved the NGO law at its weekly meeting. The draft law was then referred to the State Council for review, after which it will be sent to parliament for discussion and a vote.