Freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt

Freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt

Nothing can be hidden in Egypt . The state-owned newspapers are no longer the only source of news or information. To know about real situations in Egypt , one can read the independent newspapers and bloggs. Torture, corruption, political suppression, poverty, and peaceful and violent protests, all art taking place in Egypt , but the state-controlled media never comment or publish such aspects.

Nowadays, the situation is different; such aspects and events are widely known. All what you need to know about them is to read an independent newspaper or a blogg or to watch the space channels. No one is above criticism, and no more government secrets, all now are known. xecutioners are no longer free to chastise people and go with impunity. Young journalists and bloggers are there to write, criticize and record shootings. The slogan of “Every thing is OK in Egypt ” is changed to be “ Egypt is not well, let us expose this to find a treatment”.

A priced freedom

The Egyptian government has not changed and its policy is unchangeable. However, now some are ready to pay the price of changing; they are the Egyptian journalists and bloggers. They fulfill the price of every news or information they release while the government is intending to hide. They fulfill a very high price on behalf of the Egyptian citizen.

Being sent behind the bars, or threatened is the price. Six independent newspapers and some bloggs play the role of a microscope that enables the Egyptian citizens to see the mere naked picture of their country. Al Dostor, Al Badeel, Al Masri Al Youm, Nahdat Misr, Al Fagr, Sout Al Ummah and the bloggs, such newspapers and bloggs are reviving the Egyptian press and leading the parties newspapers, which were pioneers in the same field, to support freedoms of expression and press.

Tens? Hundreds? Thousands?

How many cases are launched against journalists?

In an attempt to find out the real number of cases launched against journalists in 2007, The Arabic network for human rights information made an interview with Mr. Saied Abu Zaid, the legal advisor for the syndicate of journalists. Mr. Abu Zaid said, “It is very difficult to define a certain number of such cases. The number of summons is more than one thousand and the number of trials is about five hundreds.” “These numbers refer to what I know personally not formally,” commented Mr. Abu Zaid.

So, more than one thousand summons and five hundred cases were launched against journalists. These numbers do not include cases against non-syndicate members nor the bloggers nor artists and men of letters who are not syndicate members. Before reviewing the events of 2007 we have to pay attention to some factors affecting the journalists performances and their role:

The executive authority, assisted by security systems, is the only decision maker at the expense of other authorities. Laws with the general atmosphere and the real situation in Egypt , magnify the attitude of the executive authority at the expense of judiciary and legislative authorities.

The absence of laws and governmental practices that support transparency and information handling. However, there are many legislations that circumscribe the right to get and publish any information. Even the state-owned newspapers depend on news agencies or on deductions and guessing. In his speech before the workshop titled “The role of press in enhancing the human rights” organized by the National council of human rights on November 10, 2007 , Mr. Ahmad Kamal Abul Magd, the under secretary of the council said, “Information blackout makes journalists release false news”… “The state is responsible for the spread of rumors since it stands behind the information blackout,” added Mr. Abul Magd.
The absence and demolishment of a journalistic value and an important tool which is the right to refute any false news. This value is replaced by the so-called “political Hesba” which means that some uninterested personality launches a law suit against any journalist who releases certain kind of information. Some courts accept such law suits and some reject them!

The syndicate membership regulations are a means of exercising pressure on any journalist working for state-owned, parties, or private newspapers. Such regulations oblige some journalist to accept working under bad conditions and for low salaries.

Some slight amendments were done to the penal code but the amendments are vague and broadly worded regarding some kind of crimes. Such crimes are interpreted according to the relation between a journalist and the government officials. Journalist Kareem Yahia was quoted commenting on this “Our press practices a kind of freedom that is customary and out of law and is depending on contenting the executive authority.”