The new protest law approved by interim President Adly Mansour “does not diminish the citizen’s right to peaceful freedom of expression,” Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim insisted on Monday.
The highly contentious law went into effect immediately after it was approved on Sunday.
Ibrahim met with high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Interior on Monday, as well as related security bodies, to establish procedures for implementing the law, the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.
The minister asserted that the law does not prohibit peaceful means of expression, but simply regulates them. Organizing and participating in public gatherings, marches and peaceful protests will still be permitted as long as they abide by the law, he said.
It is of vital importance to implement the protest law with strict precision, Ibrahim added. He called on authorities to “swiftly respond to notifications received by police stations, and for security directors to coordinate with governors in determining the location of demonstrations in a way that does not disrupt traffic and citizens’ interests.”
The Cabinet approved the law earlier this month, igniting the outrage of human rights activists, who argued the law imposes too many limitations on the right to protest, and gives legal room for police violence against protesters.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement late October after an earlier draft of the law was released, warning that it would effectively ban protests altogether.
Among its most controversial articles, the new law bans sit-ins. It also prohibits protest movements from “hindering production,” which could be grounds for criminalizing strikes. The law also bans the use of masks during protests, punishable with a fine of LE50 up to LE100,000.
Spending the night in the place of protest, disrupting security or obstructing productivity are punishable with two years in prison.
According to the law, protest organizers are required to send a request to the nearest police station at least seven days ahead of the protest, detailing its route, start and finish time, goals and the names of its organizers. Violators of this article would be fined LE100,000.
Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said that the law does not require protesters to get permission in order to protest, but merely asks them to “notify” security forces of the protests.
The law also allows the MOI to cancel a public event it had already authorized if the authorities receive “serious information on the intent of participants or organizers to commit violations of the law.”
The law prohibits protests within a 300-meter parameter of any governmental building, specifying presidential palaces, legislative buildings, the Cabinet, governorate headquarters and ministry buildings, in addition to military-affiliated buildings, courts, police stations, government hospitals and educational institutions.