In Egypt, Harsh Measures Against Academic Freedom Persist

CAIRO—The Egyptian government has continued to enforce restrictions on academic professionals and students in 2017, according to a new report by a prominent group of human rights lawyers here.

The Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression publishes regular reports on the status of freedom of expression in Egypt. In its report covering the first quarter of this year, AFTE describes infringements on academic freedom by government authorities in the form of travel bans on professors and students, and onerous bureaucratic requirements.

Faculty members continue to need official approval from security agencies to travel abroad for academic purposes.

Also, as a result of action by the Ministry of Higher Education, faculty members and officials at public universities and research centers are now required to obtain permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to travel abroad. This has led to a situation where, since the beginning of the year, Alexandria University and Tanta University have resorted to sending faculty members’ travel requests directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for approval.

The AFTE report describes the new restrictions as a violation of the law and of the independence of universities in managing their academic affairs.

In this period, the Ministry of Higher Education assumed the power to nominate university officials. This decision gives the ministry the power to challenge nominations made by university committees and to re-run the nomination process. AFTE noted that the move strengthens the government’s role in the selection of university leaders.

The Ministry of Higher Education also established new regulations on the nomination of candidates for election to student organizations, and on the financing of student unions, limiting their financial independence. The ministry also postponed student elections, to avoid the experience of recent elections in which independent and opposition students won a majority of the seats.

The periodic evaluation of the state of academic freedom is necessary to promote and protect the right of freedom of expression. It is an invitation to the government to reconsider its policy in the management of universities and open the way for academic departments to manage their affairs freely, without censorship and interference by security services, and to act with respect for the values of the Constitution.

To read a summary of the report, click here.

Mohammad Abdel Salam is a researcher at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression in Egypt.


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