Constitutional committee members butt heads over freedom of information, scientific research

Ahram Online, Monday 28 Oct 2013

Committee tasked with amending suspended 2012 constitution face opposition from military, Nour Party representatives over 'freedom and rights' chapter

General Magdi El-Din Barakat, the military representative to the 50-member constitutional committee, threatened to withdraw from Monday's session after a dispute broke out regarding article 50, which regulates freedom of information.

Article 50, part of the constitution's "Freedom and Rights" chapter, dictates that access to data, statistics, and documents is a right for all citizens, to be ensured by the state. The article states that information should be accessible and transparent so long as it does not violate the private rights of others or national security.

A majority of the committee voted on Monday to remove the special protection for information that concerns "national security," sparking debate, an informed source told Ahram Arabic news website.

Representatives from the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party and the military were among the few who voted to keep the phrase intact.

Another debate erupted on Monday regarding article 49, which establishes "freedom of scientific research."

The Nour party argued that freedom of scientific research should be granted, however research should be in accordance "to social standards," a reference to the issue of cloning.

Heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub asserted that freedom of scientific research should be unrestricted.

The 50-member constitutional committee is tasked with amending the 2012 constitution, which was suspended following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.

A final draft of the amended constitution is due for release by 3 December, when it will be referred to Interim President Adly Mansour and put to a national referendum.

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