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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 24, 2007

Statement by the Press Secretary
Egypt: Setbacks on Press Freedom and Civil Society

We are deeply concerned at the Egyptian Government's recent decree authorizing the imminent closure of the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, a human rights NGO, as well as the conviction and sentencing of several newspaper editors. These latest decisions appear to contradict the Egyptian Government's stated commitment to expand democratic rights. The contributions of civil society and the free flow of ideas and information are crucial in addressing a host of domestic and international challenges as well as expanding the rights of Egyptian citizens. We urge that any appeals process proceed expeditiously and according to international standards of due process.

Journalists and NGOs in Egypt and elsewhere should be permitted to carry out their peaceful work in a hospitable environment free from fear of harassment, reprisal, intimidation, and discrimination. A free press and a vibrant civil society are cornerstones for any democratic society, and we urge the Egyptian Government to expand protections for journalists and lift the restrictions on NGO activities, including limits on organizations' ability to accept foreign funding. Restricting the political space of NGOs and public debate only limits a society's own growth.

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