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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora