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Ed Webb

Egypt falls again in World Press Freedom Index, now ranked 159th | RSF - 0 views

  • Amid growing hostility to media criticism of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government, Egypt has fallen one place in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published today.
  • the media reflect the country’s polarization between support for Sisi and opposition, but the authoritarian regime has used the fraught security situation to crack down on critical journalists in the name of stability and national security
  • Now ranked 159th out of 180 countries, Egypt had fallen steadily in the Index since the end of the Mubarak era, when it was ranked 127th out of 173 countries
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  • in the anti-terrorism law adopted in August. Under article 33, the media are now obliged to limit themselves to the government’s version of terrorist attacks
Ed Webb

Egyptian activists bemoan 'attack on media' - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 1 views

  • Journalist Khaled El Balshy — a keen defender of freedom of expression and a democracy advocate, deputy head of the Egyptian Press Syndicate and head of the syndicate’s Freedom Committee — has been vigorously campaigning for the release of jailed journalists in Egypt. This week Balshy himself faced prosecution and risked being imprisoned on charges of “inciting protests, insulting the police and inciting to overthrow the regime.”
  • On April 6 the Interior Ministry, which had filed the legal complaint against him, was forced to withdraw the lawsuit following an outcry from fellow journalists, free speech advocates and rights organizations
  • Minutes after hearing of the warrant for his arrest, he boldly declared in a Facebook post: “If they want to arrest me, I’m in my office. I’m not better than those who are imprisoned.”
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  • he hoped that his prosecution would “throw the spotlight on the cases of others unjustly detained in Egypt, especially the jailed journalists." Since the military takeover of the country in July 2013, tens of thousands of political opposition figures have been arrested and detained as part of a sweeping security crackdown on dissent that has targeted Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters as well as secular activists, researchers, journalists and intellectuals
  • Balshy on April 4 published a list of some 40 journalists in Egypt who were either imprisoned or under threat of being detained
  • While there has hardly been any noise over the jailing of journalists with alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the verdicts against Naaot and Nagy and the arrest warrant against Balshy provoked outrage in Egypt. After an outcry in Egyptian media over the conviction of Naaot, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last week urged parliament to review the country’s blasphemy laws, which critics have denounced as outdated and harmful. Meanwhile, in an outpouring of anger on social media over Nagy’s conviction, activists have campaigned for the novelist’s release using the Arabic hashtag that translates into #CreativityOnTrial.
  • Twenty-two rights organizations, six political parties and nearly 100 individuals signed a strongly worded petition condemning the warrant for Balshy’s arrest as “an attack on the media.”
  • Until recently, much of the Egyptian media and the majority of Egyptians had also rejected international criticism of the restrictions on the media in Egypt, perceiving the criticism as “part of the foreign conspiracy to destroy Egypt.” Lately however, there has been an almost abrupt turnabout with more journalists — including regime loyalists and those who had previously practiced self-censorship — becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of “the muzzling of journalists through intimidation tactics” and “the unfair detention of writers and researchers.”
  • The regime clearly has not learned the lesson from Mubarak’s unplugging of the Internet during the 2011 uprising — a move that fueled the anger against the former dictator, leading to his ultimate overthrow. The government must acknowledge that the right to information and freedom of expression are basic human rights.
Ed Webb

Turkey bans media from landmark press freedom case | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • "The trial of Dundar and Gul is a test for the rule of law in Turkey," said Christophe Deloire, secretary general of press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. "These are two journalists, not dangerous terrorists."
  • Almost 2,000 people have been prosecuted for "insulting" Erdogan since the former premier became president in August 2014, Turkey's justice minister said earlier this month.
Ed Webb

What it's like to be a foreign journalist in Turkey - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Midd... - 1 views

  • A male journalist from Europe who has lived in Ankara for the last five years told Al-Monitor, “In the beginning, the toughest challenge was to survive the amount of food I was forced to eat because of the Turkish hospitality. In 2012 and 2013, the situation changed drastically and more and more often I had to cover street demonstrations and violent protests. Until that time the biggest danger I faced was being trampled by wrestling camels. After that it became normal to deal with tear gas, water cannons, plastic bullets and stones hurled by protesters. Nowadays, the biggest challenge is to be able to report in an environment where self-censorship is a constant danger and whoever disagrees with what you write or objects to the photos you take thinks you are against them. It is also very hard to obtain interviews, especially from ordinary people who seem to be afraid of talking with a foreigner.”
  • “Writing about Turkish politics is becoming increasingly a dangerous occupation. Several government officials who agree to talk demand they would like to preview the piece prior to publication. One MHP [Nationalist Action Party] official asked me to kill a piece because it included a section on the HDP [Peoples' Democratic Party]. He said his name could not appear in the international press with the names of the terrorists. There are plenty of capricious examples that turn proper reporting into an impasse.”
  • There is an increasingly sophisticated government propaganda apparatus — directly or indirectly controlled by the AKP — and they often point their guns at anyone even nominally critical of the AKP or [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. Sometimes they are nice — always looking for gullible foreigners to convert to the cause, but they can also be incredibly vicious
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  • it seems like certain sources, namely academics, are a bit less likely to talk lately, which, if true, means the government has successfully accomplished its goal of silencing some of its most credible critics. More generally, the political situation has gotten much, much worse, and most of my Turkish and Kurdish friends have either been further radicalized or have simply given up and withdrawn from politics and following the news. There's a great feeling of helplessness. It's an exciting life for a journalist, but it's also just incredibly sad and often seemingly hopeless
Ed Webb

Safety of journalists takes centre stage at Doha events - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

    MENA has become a particularly dangerous region for journalists, but was not always so.
Ed Webb

Qatar: land of the free? "Positive practices" that lead to jail - 0 views

  • “in 2015, authorities detained two groups of foreign journalists attempting to report on the treatment of migrant workers in the country.”
  • Two other German journalists were detained in 2013 after filming the working conditions of migrant labourers.
  • All the newspapers printed in Qatar are owned by members of the ruling family or others closely connected with the government.
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  • Journalists and publishers continued to self-censor due to political and economic pressures when reporting on government policies or material deemed hostile to Islam, the ruling family, and relations with neighboring states.
  • The Qatar Media Corporation, the Ministry of Culture, and customs officials censored material … The government reviewed, censored, or banned foreign newspapers, magazines, films, and books for objectionable sexual, religious, and political content...
  • a new “cybercrime” law which Amnesty International denounced as a major setback for freedom of expression in Qatar. Besides criminalising dissemination of “false news” on the internet, it gave the authorities power to ban websites that they considered threatening to the “safety” of the country and to punish anyone posting or sharing online content that “undermines” Qatar’s “social values” or “general order”.
  • a prison sentence of up to seven years for defaming, desecrating, or committing blasphemy against Islam, Christianity, or Judaism (though the law appears not to be enforced where Judaism is concerned)
  • The government regulates publication, importation, and distribution of all religious books and materials, but permits individuals and religious institutions to import holy books and other religious items for personal or congregational use.
  • Christian congregations are not allowed to advertise religious services or use religious symbols visible to the public, such as outdoor crosses.
Ed Webb

Is the Egyptian media starting to hold Sisi to account? | Middle East Eye - 4 views

  • Since the 2013 coup, Egyptian news outlets have mostly served as pro-government propaganda tools, supporting the government right through its worst human rights violations.

    It may come as a surprise, then, that some Egyptian news coverage has started to take jabs at the government, including, at times, current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

  • Media personalities are beginning to hold Sisi’s government to account because government repression has started to hit closer to home.

    Most mainstream Egyptian media personalities are passionately anti-Islamist, and openly supported the 2013 coup that removed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi from office. For nearly three years, Egyptian journalists have been silent about human rights violations against Morsi’s Islamist supporters. At times, Egyptian media have openly supported mass killings, irregular trials and other transgressions.

    However, in recent weeks, the Sisi government has committed transgressions against non-Islamists, with whom Egyptian media personalities relate. Several prominent writers have been given jail sentences, the judiciary sentenced a toddler to life in prison, an Italian graduate student was tortured to death (most likely by Egyptian security forces), and doctors were roughed up by Egyptian police, among other disturbing violations.

  • For two years following the coup, both the Egyptian government and its obsequious media apparatus scapegoated the Brotherhood, blaming the group for myriad problems, including floods, power outages, and violence committed by ISIS.

    Given the time that has elapsed since the coup, and also the fact that the first several tiers of Brotherhood leadership are in jail, it is no longer plausible to blame the Brotherhood for many of the nation’s problems. As a natural course, Egyptians, including media figures, are beginning to turn their attention away from the Brotherhood and toward the government.

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  • Egypt’s political system is not, and has not been, absolutely authoritarian. In quasi-authoritarian states, journalists are often allotted some room to manoeuvre. Even under the Mubarak dictatorship, occasional criticism of the government was allowed, provided that certain “red lines” were not crossed
  • It remains highly unlikely, for instance, that journalists will attempt to critically examine the Egyptian military’s role in politics, or suggest that police should be held accountable for atrocities committed against the Muslim Brotherhood
  • the Sisi government is pushing back against the recent wave of criticism. In addition to the aforementioned arrests of writers, the government has arrested dozens of Facebook page administrators and, most recently, placed investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat on a no-fly list
  • n a reference to anti-government media coverage, Sisi condemned what he sees as attempts to bring down the government, saying he will “remove from the face of the earth” anyone who attempts to do so. In a direct reference to critical news coverage, Sisi instructed Egyptians to listen only to him, and avoid those who attack the government. Sisi shouted, “Please, do not listen to anyone but me! I am dead serious! Do not listen to anyone but me!”
Ed Webb

Culture minister attends conference in solidarity with jailed novelist Ahmed Naji | Mad... - 0 views

  • Culture Minister Helmy al-Namnam attended a press conference Thursday held in solidarity with novelist Ahmed Naji, who was sentenced to two years in prison this week on charges of harming public morality.
  • Namnam said that laws conflicting with constitutional guarantees for the freedom of expression need to be confronted, explaining that the case sets a precedent extending far beyond Naji's novel. Even if a literary work is challenging to social norms, he added, this is not a criminal offense justifying imprisonment.

    It wasn’t Naji that harmed public morality, Namnam argued, but whoever filed the lawsuit against him.

  • Thursday's conference was held at the Journalists Syndicate and brought together nine rights organizations as well as several public figures.

    Khaled al-Balshy, a Journalists Syndicate board member, jokingly said the conference should be called “Don’t listen to anyone but me,” referring to a speech given by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday.

Ed Webb

Heikal, Egypt's most famous journalist, dies at 92 - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • Heikal was one of the most trenchant defenders of Nasserite Egypt and its pan-Arabism trends
  • As Nasser's friend since they first met during the war with Israel, Heikal became a staunch supporter of the coup and helped in drafting Nasser's manifesto, The Philosophy of the Revolution, which outlined his outlook for post-monarchy Egypt.
  • In 1956 and 1957, Heikal served as editor of Al-Akhbar daily, a sister publication owned by media tycoons Mustafa Amin and his twin brother Ali, who are widely considered to be the fathers of Western-style modern Egyptian journalism
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  • Heikal improved Al Ahram's coverage by subduing the sensationalism that had characterised Egypt's media and taking it to the level of Egypt's and the Arab world's most prestigious paper
  • In 2007 Heikal began hosting a series of weekly programmes on regional and world events on Al Jazeera Arabic Channel. Among the topics he discussed in the "Ma'a Heikal" [or "With Heikal"] show were US-Middle East policies, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Arab divisions. As it was expected, Egypt under Nasser came up in several programmes.
  • As happens with the intelligentsia under totalitarian or populist regimes, Heikal had probably failed to draw a clear demarcation between his role as a journalist and as an outspoken advocate of Nasserism.
  • Heikal fell out with Sadat over his domestic and international policies, prompting Sadat to relieve him of his duties in 1974. The disagreement culminated in Heikal's opposition to the 1979 peace treaty Sadat signed with Israel.
  • he paper provided a platform for Nasser's nationalist and pan-Arab policies. Heikal's widely read Friday column in Al Ahram, "Bi-Saraha" [or "Frankly Speaking"], in which he used to convey Nasser's messages and explain the government's stances, became the barometer of Egyptian policy
  • Critics often claimed he was using quotations attributed to dead politicians which they believed were fabricated to support an argument or serve a political agenda.
Ed Webb

From journalists to generals, Algeria cracks down on dissent | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • While the economic crisis related to the fall of oil revenues has caused political and social tensions, the Algerian authorities are showing increasing intolerance towards criticism, already under attack since the start of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s fourth term in April 2014.
  • Hassina Oussedik, director of Amnesty International’s chapter in Algeria, says the attacks on freedom of expression have been "constant".

    "In 2015, not a month has passed without witnessing cases of people being oppressed as they try to express themselves peacefully. The authorities rely on poorly formulated or ambiguous laws to arrest people," she told Middle East Eye.

    "They use provisions of the penal code that criminalise 'contempt', 'insult' or 'defamation' aimed against representatives of the state and other institutions in order to restrict freedom of expression, including humour, expression on the internet and on the street."

  • But an Algerian police officer, in charge of monitoring public demonstrations, said claims of repression were excessive and defended his activities.

    "Repression? Dictatorship? Censorship? All of this is much exaggerated and is far from the truth," he told MEE. "If we did not do our job of monitoring and surveillance, Islamists and terrorists would feel omnipotent. In the 90s, this led us to chaos! Is it normal to insult the state, the president, the police or the army with impunity?"

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  • A former minister also defends the state’s repressive policy: "Newspapers, with their criticisms and caricatures that spare no one, even the president and the army chief, aren’t they free? But the law will remain strict against those who attack the institutions and the nation; we are not a gang of criminals who must be denounced all the time. We are servants of the state and those who criticise the government are attacking Algeria."
  • In the former minister's view, the majority of social opposition movements, jobless in the south, anti-shale gas activists, subversive artists and independent publishers, are simply “naive people manipulated by forces hostile to Algeria and its government’s patriotic choices".
  • Minister of Communications Hamid Grine, described by the Workers Party leader Louisa Hanoune as the “propaganda minister”.

    Regularly, the minister threatens journalists, independent media, foreign press correspondents and activists on social media in the name of "ethics". He imposed the closure of two private TV channels, Atlas TV and El Watan El Djazairia TV, and publicly refused to grant accreditation to foreign press correspondents, including a journalist from the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat, demanding that they "toe the line".

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