Who should be outraged by Egypt's recent move to obtain Red Notices against NGO staff members? Out of basic concern for the human condition, all of us. More specifically, and more selfishly, those of us who rely on the activities and findings of international journalists and non-governmental organization (NGO) workers should be very concerned about Egypt's recent activities.
Egypt is seeking Red Notices in the names of 43 people, including 17 American NGO workers who are alleged to have worked for their respective organizations in Egypt without the proper licenses, and has asked the U.S. for assistance in locating those individuals. Those sought by Egypt include people affiliated with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI).
For the alleged offense of operating without a license, Egyptian officials seek the extradition and prosecution of each individual. As reported here, the U.S. government is engaged in talks with Egypt and INTERPOL to prevent the subject Red Notices from being issued.
Let us hope those discussions are successful in preventing the issuance of Red Notices, because collectively, we will suffer if the voices of these individuals are silenced.
If you thought it was bad when country-to-country cables published by Wikileaks were unavailable due to funding issues, or when Wikipedia blacked out for twenty-four hours, imagine how difficult it would be to accomplish the following without the verified and unbiased information provided by trained international journalists, human rights watch organizations, and political observers:
Engaging in the preparation of an asylum petition for a client, without access to current reports from organizations such as Amnesty International regarding country conditions or political persecution.
Monitoring international elections on behalf of a professional organization without being able to rely on the monitoring efforts of organizations such as Freedom House or National Democratic Institute.
Researching and organizing a challenge to an INTERPOL Red Notice based on politically motivated grounds without current information regarding the issuing country's political activities, such as harassment of dissidents, retaliatory detention, or disparate treatment of political opponents.
I can't think of many attorneys who have the time, the skill, or quite honestly, the guts, to travel from country to country to gather the information provided by these organizations. Without the work of investigative journalists and NGO's, we will lose access to quality information regarding country conditions, human rights violations, and the integrity of elections. This information makes up the substance of much of the work we do.
To maintain its international credibility, Egypt should reconsider its position on this issue. Absent that, the U.S. should stand strong in its position in support of its citizens and against the issuance of Red Notices in their names. By all current indications, the U.S. is doing just that.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.
Next time: what it takes to get the information out of a country and into a country report.