Panelists Discuss Egypt's Transition to Democracy

October 18, 2012 — On October 9, Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi marked his 100th day in office by pardoning thousands of political prisoners from the Mubarak Era. The next day a panel of experts gathered here to discuss the legal ramifications of Morsi’s actions and the challenges to meaningful democracy Egypt still faces.

Egypt made strides in its first 100 days under Morsi, said panelist Michele Dunne, a former U.S. diplomat who was based in Cairo. But as long as the Egyptian police, military and media do not change, Egypt’s revolution will not be fully realized.

“Most of the problems in Egypt were caused by a lack of transparency,” said Professor Sahar Aziz of Texas Wesleyan Law School, who recently wrote a report on international freedom of information law. Freedom of information is “the bread and butter of any pro-democracy movement,” she added, and while the Egyptian people have voted for the government they want, they will not see democracy until freedom of information is achieved. 

Georgetown Law Visiting Professor Brian Wolfman, another panelist, described the benefits of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and discussed how pro-democracy movements, including Egypt’s, need similar measures to increase government dialogue and expand civil society.

The panel was hosted by the Georgetown Law chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Law Society, Human Rights Action/Amnesty International and Egyptian-American Rule of Law Association.