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December 10 2015

Egypt: Expression and repression

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In recent years, the Egyptian arts and culture sector has faced debilitating repression. In 2014, a new law was passed to regulate receipt of external funds for NGO’s, and this had a devastating impact on the sector, with some organisations forced to close or to relocate their offices and activities.

Prohibitive restrictions affecting the freedom of artists and journalists are ongoing.  In December, following a raid by the Office of Artistic Products Police Department, the Townhouse Gallery and Rawabet Theatrer were closed by the authorities. No official reason has been issued to date.

Also in December, the poet Omar Hazek was prevented from travelling to the Netherlands to receive the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. 

Such cases provide just a few alarming examples of challenges within the artistic and cultural environment in Egypt, five years after the revolution that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The many hopes that emerged during the Arab Spring have wilted, the seemingly progressive clauses of the new 2014 Constitution are not being met in practice.

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