Of wall writings and trash

A law still in its draft stage banning “writings deemed defamatory” on walls is expected to stir another wave of criticism for its attempt to limit freedom of expression. 


The privately-owned daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Tuesday that Minister of Local Development Adel Labib has finished working on a draft law that bans wall writings on public and private institutions that are deemed defamatory and throwing trash in public spaces. The draft was reportedly submitted to the prime minister’s team of advisers. 


According to the draft’s logic, wall writings are equivalent to trash. In statements to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Labib said that the draft contains jail sentences of four years for defamatory writing on the wall, as well as fines of LE100,000. The same sanctions apply in the draft to throwing trash in the streets. 


He added that in neighborhood committees will be established to identify those who write on the walls or throw trash. 


Commenting on the draft law, Teneen, a prominent graffiti artist, deemed its prospects “stupid” and “bullshit.” 


“They are doing it mostly to [challenge] those who write ‘Sisi is a traitor’ and ‘Sisi is a killer,’” he says, referring to comments now prevalent on and spread by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi by the military’s chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. 


“I think they have gotten bothered by seeing these writings everyday,” he adds, dismissing the possibility of the law being implemented or deterring graffiti artists from doing what they do. 


“At the end of the day, it is people in the neighborhoods who would prevent a graffiti artist from doing what they do if they don’t like it. Not the police.”


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