Sisi seeks ‘balance’ between stability and freedoms

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi says he aims to find equilibrium between Egypt’s stability on one side and securing freedoms and rights on the other, according to state news agency MENA.

“I am keen to [achieve] balance between the safety of 90 million and the state’s stability [on one side] and securing rights and freedoms,” the president said at a gathering of some of the country’s top writers and intellectuals on Tuesday.

The meeting is the first in a string of gatherings of social dialogue that al-Sisi aims to hold with figures from across the country’s political, economic and arts spectrum, the presidency said in a statement.

The meeting was aimed at addressing efforts by al-Sisi’s administration to “improve public services and boost investments” as well as “looking at grievances harboured by the public.”

Participants in the meeting called for better participation in the country’s political scene by political parties, non-governmental organisations and professional syndicates.

They also urged the guaranteeing of unrestricted freedom of expression and demanded an overhaul of the country’s media scene.

Writer Farida El-Naqash, who was present at the meeting, told Ahram Arabic that some of the participants called for revoking the 2013 protest law, which bans all but police-sanctioned protests. Hundreds of Islamists and secular activists have been jailed under this law.

al-Sisi also said that four batches of detainees have been released in recent months as part of campaigns sponsored by Egypt’s semi-official National Council for Human Rights along with media figures.

Some participants also demanded the release of TV presenter Islam El-Beheiry, who is imprisoned on blasphemy charges, as well as novelist Ahmed Nagy, who was sentenced to jail for the publishing of what authorities deem a “sexually explicit text.”

Human rights activists have slammed both cases as a blow to freedom of expression.

al-Sisi said that he has been frank about the country’s economic woes since he came to office, urging “concerted efforts and patience.”

He called on attendees to sponsor efforts to set up “working groups” of think tankers to look at pressing issues and challenges and propose means of tackling them.

al-Sisi said he would convene a similar gathering next month to look at recommendations proposed by the groups.

al-Sisi added that no president can “remain in office beyond the prescribed period.”

Moreover, al-Sisi came to office in June 2014, almost a year following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi after massive protests against his turbulent one-year rule. Under the Egyptian constitution, a president can remain in office for a maximum of two terms, each of four years.

source: Ahram Online