News / Middle East

Egypt Curbs Public Discourse, Media Before Elections

An Egyptian worker collects belonging of Ibrahim Issa including photos of some of the worlds revolutionary icons at his office in Cairo, Egypt, 05 Oct 2010
An Egyptian worker collects belonging of Ibrahim Issa including photos of some of the worlds revolutionary icons at his office in Cairo, Egypt, 05 Oct 2010

Egypt's opposition forces are gearing up to take on the ruling National Democratic Party in parliamentary elections next month.  But as the time nears, their ability to get their message across is increasingly curtailed.  

The latest wave of Egyptian media restrictions targeted satellite channels.  The government-owned NileSat company suspended the licenses of 12 channels this week on charges including incitement of religious hatred and unfounded medical advice.  

But following hard on an order curbing live television broadcasts, the firing of a leading dissident journalist, and limits on mass text messaging, the move has many in Egypt making a link to elections.

Egyptians enjoy a nominally freer media than many of their Arab neighbors.  But the director of the independent Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Tarek Zaghloul, argues that during elections, that freedom ends if the media threaten to expose violations of the electoral process.   

Zaghloul notes that during Shura Council elections in June, some satellite channels' film crews were banned from covering polling stations where they might have documented fraud.  He adds that, as an extra measure, authorities criticized the channels for reporting the crews had been banned.   

The human rights advocate says that the media, in theory, are also expected to play the important role of providing equal time for candidates and their campaigns.  That, too, is getting harder.

The outspoken editor of al-Doustor newspaper, Ibrahim Issa, was fired earlier this month for trying to publish an opinion piece by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei.  At the same time, Issa's public affairs television program, Baladna bel Masry, was canceled.  Although both his former employers are not government-owned, Issa and others believe they came under government pressure.

The government maintains that the press enjoys wide freedoms, and many pro-government media groups agree.  But as ElBaradei has found out, those freedoms include publishing questionable information about opposition politicians and those around them.

Independent political activist Ahmad Salah says ElBaradei, the popular former head of the U.N. nuclear agency serves as an example, if a slightly special one.

"Dr. ElBaradei is someone that is difficult to smear," he said.  "So now they are trying to attack him through making him seem unreligious, that his daughter is - I do not know what, because they cannot attack him directly."

Pro-government media were quick to pick up on photographs of ElBaradei's daughter wearing a bikini, a suggestion of impiety in a society where women increasingly don the veil.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.N. nuclear chief, marking the first year of his campaign, in Cairo, Egypt, 06 Sep 2010
Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.N. nuclear chief, marking the first year of his campaign, in Cairo, Egypt, 06 Sep 2010



Some smears are subtle.  One prominent female journalist was photographed at a Western embassy party playing with a dog, an animal many Muslims consider unclean.  The accompanying article managed to insinuate questions about her loyalty, religion and sexual proclivities.  

Other attempts show less sophistication.  The author of an article accusing Ghad party chief Ayman Nour of serving with U.S. forces in Vietnam failed to consider the math.  Nour was 10-years old when the war ended.   

The opposition tries to counter such broadsides in the less restricted world of the Internet.  ElBaradei posted his opinion piece online.  Social media are also employed, but according to activist Salah, they are not used widely enough to make a profound difference.  

"Facebook is not our tool really to reach out for the people," said Salah.  "Facebook is a good tool for us to communicate with our members and also to try to get more membership or friends of the movement through the internet among the young people.  But to reach the people really we have to get to the streets."   

The public square as a forum for the opposition presents a different set of problems.  Egypt is under emergency law and even someone like Salah, jailed for political activities in the past, does not push when it comes to discussing the law's enforcer.    

"I have to apologize," he said.  "If I talk about the army I will be put in a military tribunal because it is strictly forbidden to talk about the army in Egypt and if you do you will face a military court."

In a country where the military is considered key to the government's decades-long rule, removing it from public discourse may be the most effective form of censorship available.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid