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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Draft Protest Law Causes Controversy

The Egyptian Ministry of Justice’s new, restrictive draft protest law has divided the Egyptian cabinet and received heavy criticism in recent days. The law stipulates that sit-ins, blocking roads, wearing masks during protests, carrying weapons during protests and protesting outside of houses of worship are all banned. The law further stipulates that local police must be notified one day before the event, and government bodies must be formed to monitor protests and marches. Rights advocates and some Egyptian cabinet members have opposed the law, saying that it would restrict  freedom of expression and ultimately harm the interim government’s public standing. A leader of the political group Tamarod condemned the new draft law today, saying that it would be unjust to limit the right to peaceful protests. The draft legislation is currently awaiting approval by the interim president, Adly Mansour.

Military Trials Continue

Despite reassurances from Egypt’s foreign minister that civilians will not face military trials, journalists, protesters and activists in various areas around Egypt continue to be prosecuted by military courts.  In the Suez region last month, seven people were prosecuted on charges that they “employed slogans…damaging to national security.” Mahmoud Salamani, an activist with a campaign called No to Military Trials, questioned this choice on the behalf of the government. “What is national security, anyway?” he said, adding,”No one can answer that question.” Though there are no reliable statistics available on how many civilians have been tried in military courts throughout Egypt, 73 civilians in Suez have been tried since former President Morsi’s ouster on July 3.

Al Jazeera to Take Egypt State Television to Court

The news network Al Jazeera plans to sue Egyptian state television because of an infringement of rights over the broadcasting of the Egypt-Ghana World Cup qualifying match earlier this week, according to state media. Al Jazeera says they own the exclusive rights to broadcast the game in Egypt, but the Qatari news network has come under harsh criticism from the Egyptian government, who claim that the channel’s coverage is biased in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and have cracked down on the network’s activities. Egyptian authorities arrested several Al Jazeera journalists, raided their offices, and a court ruled that the channel had to shutter their doors last month. However, despite the crackdown, the network’s Egypt channel continues to broadcast.

Six Killed in the Sinai Peninsula

Early this morning, Egyptian security forces opened fire on a car of gunmen who were apparently preparing to attack a security checkpoint near the Al-Arish airport, killing all six. The town of Al Arish is located in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula, an area that has become known for the high number of attacks perpetrated by unknown assailants on checkpoints and police stations. Attacks by Islamist groups on border officers and state institutions increased after former President Mohamed Morsi was deposed earlier this summer.

US Government to Reopen

US federal employees will return to work today after the US Senate and House approved a bill to put the government back in motion again after a 16-day shutdown period. The new bill will provide funding for the government to remain operational through mid-January, and lets the US avoid defaulting on its loans and suffering a loss to its credit rating. Republicans who were seeking to alter the new health care law failed to achieve any significant changes, and many expressed disappointment at the result of the deal. Though the new budget deal is only temporary, China and the head of the International Monetary Fund praised the move, and Asian markets rose on the news that the US government had reached an end to the stalemate.

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