The degree of freedom in Egypt is declining steadily, and took another large step downward yesterday with the adoption of a law limiting political protests.
The new law, adopted by the Shura Council, requires three days’ notice to the police for any demonstration of more than 20 people–and the notice must name the organizers of the demonstration. Moreover, demonstrators must keep 600 feet away from any government building–making them invisible to the officials in that building in many cases. The punishment for “harming citizens’ interests” or posing a risk to national security is a fine and possible jail time at hard labor, as the Egypt Independent reports. Terms like “harming citizens’ interests” are purposely vague enough to permit officials to act against any protests they find inconvenient.
One need not dwell long on the ironies here: the Muslim Brotherhood arrived in power on the heels of just the sort of demonstrations by Egyptians that it now seeks to prevent. Whether this law will stick, or will be used by police and the Brotherhood to bar demonstrations, remains to be seen. It is certainly more evidence that the Brotherhood has a view of democracy reminiscent of the one attributed to Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan: democracy is like a train, and when you get to your station you get off.