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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora