On Tuesday March 13, 2018, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marwan held a press conference in the Foreign Correspondents Club affiliated to the State Information Service (SIS) in the presence of Mr Diaa Rashwan, Chairman of SIS, to shed light on the report presented by Egypt to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva; Minister Marwan reviewed the achievements Egypt was able to score in accordance with the recommendations it accepted during the 20th round of the UN Human Rights Council in 2014.
Minister Omar Marwan stressed that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement in which he thanked Egypt for submitting its report; the UN High Commissioner also clarified that all the quotes and statements attributed to him as regards human rights in Egypt were prior to reviewing the report by the UN Human Rights Council, adding "I received allegations and reports; however, I never said that we verified their credibility and I did not issue any condemnation against Egypt"; the High Commissioner called upon Egypt to secure more freedoms.
Minister Omar Marwan explained that the High Commissioner did not refer to "Egypt" in the oral statement he delivered before the Council; in that statement, he referred to 20 countries where he believes that human rights issue is the most urgent to be addressed in the whole world. Minister Marwan stated that 65 countries participated in the discussion of the report and most of their stances and remarks were positive towards Egypt as regards all the subjects the report comprises.
Minister Marwan added that Egypt accepted 247 recommendations during the 20th round of the UN Human Rights Council in 2014; it was able to implement 75% out of those recommendations on one hand and provide sufficient evidences in response to the simple remarks pointed out by some countries on the other hand; henceforth, these countries adopted quite positive stances towards Egypt.
Minister Omar Marwan stressed that there is a pressing necessity to adjust the use of terminology especially "enforced disappearance"; he pinpointed that cases of disappearance are various, including illegal immigration, escape from family...etc; these cases must be reported without delay for investigators to start working on each case and eventually reaching a conclusion. Minister Marwan referred to some cases that were allegedly described as "enforced disappearance", while such allegations eventually turned to be sheer fraud, namely the case of "Zubeida" and the case of "Omar Al Deeb", the member of the Muslim Brotherhood who joined ISIS.
Minister Marwan made it clear that the Egyptian Law criminalizes insulting any person even "those accused" and considers it a "misdemeanor". On the other hand, Minister Marwan stressed that reports of torture in Egypt are individual cases not systematic; he added that over four years, 72 policemen were accused of abuse and torture and referred to court in addition to 31 who were referred by the Ministry of Interior to administrative accountability for violations that do not amount to judicial accountability.
Minister Omar Marwan highly praised the role of Al-Azhar, the time-honored entity, to combat extremist ideologies and address misconceptions, adding that Al Azhar Observatory plays such an important enlightening role to track and detect all misconceptions and deviant ideologies and introduce the correct and true image of the teachings of Islam. On the other hand, Minister Marwan referred to the role of the Egyptian Cabinet's Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) that responds on a daily basis to rumors circulated; Minister Marwan added that over a few months, the IDSC detected thousands of rumors; a clear evidence that Egypt confronts a ferocious war.
Minister Marwan pinpointed that the more steps Egypt takes to move forward, the more fruitless attempts some make to distort its noticeable achievements and tarnish its reputation by spreading false allegations on human rights. Minister Marwan stressed that the strongest evidence to render all those unfounded allegations sheer fraud was the unprecedented step taken by Egypt to present a voluntary report on human rights to the UN Human Rights Council albeit presenting such a report was not mandatory; while presenting this report for the first time, Egypt was keen to assert that it took serious steps as regards human rights. Minister Marwan added that the praise Egypt received from 65 countries for its voluntary report asserts that the Egyptian attempt was successful enough to bear fruits.
As for the issue of NGOs in Egypt, Minister Omar Marwan explained that there are two important points related to this issue; first, Egyptian NGOs are founded purely by notification, second, foreign NGOs that are interested to operate inside Egypt need close scrutiny of data and information related to their projects and sources of funding and any country has the full right to adopt such measures.
Mr Diaa Rashwan, Chairman of SIS, stressed that holding a press conference to review the report Egypt voluntarily presented to the UN Human Rights Council asserts, leaving no room to doubts, that Egypt chose the approach of complete transparency in addressing the issue of human rights before the international community, adding that this is the second meeting in a row the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marwan holds over two months in the Foreign Correspondents Club to discuss conditions of human rights in Egypt.
In the same vein, Mr Diaa Rashwan added that out of the 300 human rights recommendations that Egypt received in 2014, it fully accepted 223 i.e. 82% out of the total number which is one of the highest rates worldwide, partially accepted 24, and rejected only 17 as there can never be a 100% or even 90% acceptance in view of discrepancy in cultures and conditions inside each country.
Mr Diaa Rashwan stressed the unfaltering keenness on freedom of opinion and expression being the first pillar of press and media work, while the second pillar is undoubtedly professionalism. Mr Rashwan clarified that only in case of adhering to professionalism, it is possible to differentiate between rumors and facts. In the same context, Mr Rashwan said, "I am all confidence that all who are present in this conference adhere to professionalism", adding that the law regulates how to deal with rumors. Mr Diaa Rashwan firmly rejected inserting any kind of restrictions or caveats on freedom of speech outside the framework of law; he clearly addressed the audience by saying "my recommendation is professionalism".
On the other hand, Mr Rashwan clarified that the number of journalists registered in the Journalists' Syndicate totaled 12 thousand, and twice that number are non-members who work in the field of journalism; Mr Rashwan added that about 20 thousand people work in visual media and websites, out of which 8 thousand are members in the Media Syndicate while twice this number are non-members, thus the total number of those working in the fields of journalism and media hits about 60 thousand and the cases of convicting any of them either for reasons related to their reporting or to other reasons represent a very small percent of the total count. Mr Rashwan stressed that the reports issued as regards the number of imprisoned journalists comprise gross exaggerations and unfounded allegations, adding that the cases are very few and henceforth it can never be considered a phenomenon. Mr Diaa Rashwan was so keen to confirm that no one is allowed to attack or violate freedom of expression which is a constitutional right.
Mr Diaa Rashwan pinpointed that some reports on Egypt in some foreign media outlets are fraught with violations that went beyond the limits of being non-professional to the point of being clear insults; however, these outlets still operate freely inside Egypt, while discussions and deliberations are on-going as regards these outlets between the State Information Service and foreign correspondents. No measure has been taken against any foreign correspondent in spite of his greater influence in comparison to local press as regards Egypt's image abroad.