The vote on a new constitution comes as 50 news outlets are calling on Egypt to release at least eight detained journalists, including three from Al Jazeera. Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were all detained in late December. On Monday, a group of journalists released a statement saying the arrests had “cast a cloud over press and media freedom in Egypt.” Among the signers were Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have agreed on a $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government funded through September. About half of that amount will go to the military. The bill boosts federal budgets after last year’s across-the-board cuts, but keeps levels tens of billions of dollars lower than Democrats wanted. It restores funding to Head Start education programs and finances some efforts to curb sexual assault in the military. It also allows $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt despite global concerns over the crackdown on activists and journalists.
Egypt: Voting Begins on New Constitution
Egypt has begun a two-day referendum on a new constitution. The vote is seen as a possible precursor to a presidential bid by Egypt’s top military general. It takes place amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent including the arrests of those who oppose the charter. Hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers were deployed across Egypt. Just before polling began, an explosion rocked a Cairo neighborhood. The Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohamed Morsi has called for a boycott. An activist with the April 6 Democratic Front said his group is also rejecting the vote.
Mohamed Fawaz: “We can never participate and give legitimacy to a regime which fools the people and tries to act like it is a civil democratic regime, while it is neither democratic nor civil. We will not participate in a constitution which forms a military state after we revolted against its principles and oppressive nature filled with aggression, violence and rage against all that oppose it.”