Top News: Right to Information Law to Criminalize Spreading Rumors on Social Networks

Egypt’s cabinet will reportedly begin discussing the final draft of the new Right to Information Law next week, upon Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab’s return from a trip to Italy. A government source told privately-owned Al-Watan that the new law will criminalize spreading rumors on social media that could potentially harm the state, with punishments ranging from monetary fines to imprisonment. The ministers of transitional justice and communication will reportedly detail the definition of “cybercrime” in the draft law, which includes disclosing classified national security information and spreading harmful rumors. Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Heneidy said that the Right to Information Law will mandate the formation of a special committee to determine the period of time for which information should remain classified, and when and how it can be disclosed. The committee will also specify what kind of information can be exempt from such classification. Regarding the implementation and monitoring of the law, Heneidy said that a new entity might be formed to oversee this, or the government will rely on already existing bodies like the National Library and Archives. He added that the government aims to put the law out for public consultation and dialogue to avoid the controversy that followed the announcement of the new Terrorism Law, especially regarding Article 33 relating to journalists. [Mada Masr, 7/22/2015] 

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Eight arrested in aftermath of Ahly vs Zamalek match
Eight fans were arrested during small-scale riots that took place in Cairo’s Mohandessin on Tuesday night after a football match between arch-rivals Ahly and Zamalek. The match saw Ahly beat Zamalek 2-0. A number of Zamalek fans quarrelled with their rival fans near the Zamalek club headquarters, and security forces intervened to thwart possible clashes between the two sides, according to state media. State media also said that the Zamalek fans returned to the club’s headquarters, attempting an assault on the club premises, which led to the arrests. The fans were taken into custody at Agouza police station to await prosecution investigations on Wednesday. The match, which was played in Alexandria, where the Interior Ministry reportedly deployed 5,000 Central Security Forces soldiers and armoured vehicles to secure the match. [DNE, 7/22/2015]

Photojournalist Shawkan’s hearing adjourned after 700 days detention without charge
Cairo Criminal Court adjourned photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid’s (popularly known as Shawkan) court hearing on Tuesday to August 3, as his lawyers were unable to attend the hearing. The session was expected to be held in the Police Institute in the Tora Prison compound, in southern Cairo, according to the prosecution’s statements to the defense. However, the session was moved, without notice, to the Fifth Settlement, a suburb in the far west of the capital, where the session was postponed due to “security forces’ failure to transport the detainees,” according to the support campaign named Freedom For Shawkan. Meanwhile, a judge at Qasr al-Nil Court renewed the detention of photographer Wagdy Khaled for another fifteen days, pending national security investigations. Khaled, a photojournalist for the weekly newspaper Al-Masriya, was arrested on July 3 last year, while taking photographs outside Omar Makram mosque. He was charged with being a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. [DNE, Mada Masr, 7/21/2015]

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Egypt’s GASC receives wheat offers in tender
Egypt, one of the world’s largest wheat importers, received offers from Russia, Romania, Ukraine, and France in its latest wheat tender. A total of twenty-two offers for wheat were made. Shipping companies did not take part because the 15 percent discount that Egypt’s state grain buyer provides to the Egyptian National Navigation Company (NNC) made bidding uncompetitive. A source at Egypt’s General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) said the discount was not an issue, however one Cairo based trader said that most suppliers are against the discount. On Monday, Egypt announced a tender to buy an unspecified amount of wheat for shipment from September 1-10. [Reuters, 7/21/2015]

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  • Egypt’s stock market edges up slightly as foreign investors buy | Aswat Masriya

Bombed Italian consulate in Cairo to partially resume services next week
The Italian consulate in Cairo, the target of an early morning explosion earlier this month, will partially resume its services next week, the Italian embassy announced on Wednesday. The blast which occurred on July 11, killing one Egyptian and destroying parts of the building, prompted the consulate to temporarily suspend its services. The consulate’s visas and passports departments will resume work next week “despite the big difficulties facing the embassy’s work team and the scarcity of available venues within the embassy in comparison to normal days,” the embassy said in a statement. The embassy said “appropriate” solutions to other suspended consular services are currently being studied. [Aswat Masriya, 7/22/2015]  

NGO accuses Solidarity Ministry of ‘arbitrary approach’
The Maat For Peace, Development and Human Rights foundation has accused the Solidarity Ministry of following an “arbitrary approach” in dealing with Egyptian NGOs.  On December 30, 2014 Maat submitted a request to the Department of Social Solidarity to implement a project called “The comprehensive periodic review as a tool to improve public policies,” accompanied by all the necessary legal documents, Maat said in a statement Wednesday.  The foundation said the Solidarity Ministry has not responded to its request, despite the fact that the law stipulates the ministry must respond to requests within sixty days. Maat repeatedly asked about the request over a period of seven months, while ministry employees stated it was pending the security authorities’ approval. The foundation discovered in July 2015 that the project papers had disappeared, as different departments within the ministry denied receiving the project documents, Maat’s statement added. [Egypt Independent, 7/22/2015]

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Wanted Egyptian militant urges jihad against Sisi
One of Egypt’s most wanted men, a former special forces officer turned Islamist militant commander, has condemned President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and called for a holy war against his government. An audio message attributed to Hisham al-Ashmawy, who security officials suspect masterminded the recent car bomb assassination of Egypt’s top prosecutor, said the country is “overpowered by the new pharaoh” Sisi. Ashmawy, who officials say is working closely with Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis militant group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State last year, is implicated in a several deadly attacks, including this month’s bombing outside the Italian Consulate in Cairo. Ashmawy also used the recording to note that Jihad has now become obligatory on all Muslims.  [Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, 7/22/2015]  

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Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia in new talks over Renaissance Dam
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia started a new round of talks on Wednesday over the latter’s Grand Renaissance Dam project, which Egypt fears will affect its share of the Nile’s water. These are the seventh round of talks of the tripartite technical committee on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Egypt submitted two studies on the Renaissance Dam to both Sudan and Ethiopia, said Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Moghazy. One of the studies tackles the impact of the Renaissance Dam on Egypt, while the second deals with the hydraulic performance of the Renaissance Dam. According to the study, Ethiopia needs to modify the dam to secure the water needs of downstream countries, Moghazy said. Egypt has highlighted the importance of starting special studies on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam as soon as possible based on the roadmap plan approved by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. [Ahram Online, Cairo Post, SIS, 7/22/2015]  

Egypt rejects Iran’s interference in Arab countries’ domestic affairs
In a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement Tuesday, Egypt said it completely rejects Iran’s interference in Arab countries’ domestic affairs after Iran’s supreme leader said that Iran backs the “oppressed people” in Bahrain. In its statement, Egypt also called on Middle East countries to respect the articles of the United Nations’ charter that highlight non-interference in other states’ affairs. The ministry’s statement also emphasized Egypt’s solidarity with its fellow Arab neighbors in facing any foreign interference. Pointing out that the principle of non-interference is laid down in the UN Charter, the ministry reaffirmed “Egypt’s refusal of intervention in the affairs of Arab sister countries.” It also emphasized the importance of avoiding any escalation of tensions and conflicts, adding that these provided fertile ground “for the growth and spread of extremist ideas.” [Ahram Online, DNE, 7/22/2015]

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