Egypt | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Not Free

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who first took power in a July 2013 coup, continues to govern Egypt in an authoritarian manner, though the election of a new parliament in late 2015 ended a period of rule by executive decree. Serious political opposition is virtually nonexistent, as both liberal and Islamist activists face criminal prosecution and imprisonment. Terrorism persists unabated in the Sinai Peninsula and has also struck the Egyptian mainland, despite the government’s use of aggressive and often abusive tactics to combat it.

Key Developments: 
  • In April, the government cracked down on demonstrators protesting a deal to transfer the sovereignty of Egyptian islands to Saudi Arabia. Dozens of people were beaten and arrested.
  • In February, an Italian doctoral student, Giulio Regeni, was found dead in Cairo, and his body showed evidence of torture. Security forces were suspected of involvement in his abduction and murder.
  • In November, the parliament passed a highly restrictive bill on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that effectively criminalized any civil society activity in the absence of approval from a new regulatory body dominated by security agencies. The measure had yet to be signed by the president at year’s end.
  • Sectarian attacks against Christians continued during the year, including a December church bombing by the Islamic State (IS) militant group that killed 25 worshipers. 
Executive Summary: 

The overwhelmingly progovernment parliament elected in 2015 generally rubber-stamped legislation during 2016 and did not provide an effective check on the government of President Sisi.

The authorities harshly restricted freedoms of speech and assembly for activists from across the political spectrum, and the new NGO legislation passed in November threatened to further curtail the operations of independent civil society groups. The media were also targeted, with law enforcement agencies harassing and sometimes jailing journalists who reported on political opposition of any kind. Arbitrary travel bans increasingly affected academics and others seeking to visit or leave Egypt.

An armed insurgency by an IS affiliate based in the Sinai Peninsula continued to grow in 2016. The government maintained a state of emergency in large sections of northeastern Sinai, but it failed to halt terrorist attacks there and in other parts of the country.

Corruption, mismanagement, political unrest, and terrorist violence all contributed to the country’s severe economic problems, which included inflation and food shortages. The International Monetary Fund approved a three-year, $12 billion loan in November, but the associated conditions, such as cuts to energy subsidies, were expected to impose further hardship on the population.


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