Egypt held parliamentary elections on November 28, a test of the government’s promises for democracy and human rights reform. It failed.
The Egyptian government refused to allow election monitors into the country, and elections were marred by government repression and manipulation.
Egyptians deserve free, fair elections when they vote for president in early 2011. You can help by urging international election monitors this time.
At the United Nations in New York in September, President Obama said that it was time for every member state to open its elections to international monitors. The Egyptian elections should be no exception. This has become the global norm.
Human Rights First is working with local activists to support their innovative efforts to promote free and fair elections and to monitor the electoral process. International elections monitors would strengthen them, and we are asking President Obama to call on the Egyptian government to open pending elections to international monitors.
Local Monitoring through New Media
The Internet and other new communications technologies have been means to dialogue, organize, and gather information in Egypt, where media is dominated by state controlled broadcasting and where independent journalists are subject to restrictions and even prosecution.
Civil society organizations and activists have used these SMS texting, social networks and blogs to send reports and images in real time about human rights violations or voting irregularities during elections.
Government crackdowns on these networks and tools are repressing legitimate demands from Egyptian citizens for a more responsive, just, and democratic government.
Human Rights First is supporting these local initiatives by working with a group of “netizens”—activists who use the Internet and new media to promote democracy and human rights.
Watch activists talk about what’s going on:
Esraa Abdel Fattah describes her initiative using new media for election transparency.
Gamal Eid talks about the repressive tactics used by the Egyptian government.
Nora Younis participated in a web chat with Human Rights First about the murder of Khaled Saeed by Egyptian police.
Curbing Repression Through Internet Freedom
The Egyptian authorities are looking for ways to disrupt and impeded the free flow of information through messaging, e-mail and social networking sites. Companies working in Information and Communications Technology must be aware of the threats and be prepared to preserve freedom of expression. The Global Network Initiative principles and guidelines provide companies with a helpful starting point.
Pressure from the United States Government
The largest country in the Middle East, Egypt is a key ally of the U.S. and receives billions of dollars in American aid—more than almost any other country. The U.S. has leverage. It should use it to make a difference for the Egyptian people.
When President Obama made his speech in Cairo in June 2009 he pledged to promote representative government for the people of the Middle East. These elections provide the Obama Administration a perfect opportunity to do just that.
The U.S. has called on the Egyptian government to hold free and fair elections but has made few specific recommendations. This is beginning to change, but President Obama can underline the general call he made in New York by directing it specifically to the Egyptian government.