Intolerance does not mean subjecting those who cross the line to exceptional measures, for this is unacceptable in democratic countries. But journalists in the free world are accurate in what they say or write and they refer to different sources before making anything public. Plus, they are acquainted with the legal system and, therefore, are always careful not to commit violations that could subject them to penalties of publication offences.
The judiciary offers protection to the media and also to anyone who is harmed by it. That is why anyone has the right to go to court including Mursi. It is not normal that everyone, except Islamists, is leveling harsh criticism at him, usually unjustifiably. They even make fun of his beard.
They, however, have obviously forgotten that growing a beard is a religious practice and that making fun of that is like making fun of the prophet’s teachings and not of Mursi as a person. That is why the media needs to differentiate between the religious and the personal and to focus on what is objective like the president’s policies or his achievements in the first 100 days and so on.
Every journalist has the right to criticize Mursi’s performance, but this should have nothing to do with his beard, or the way he emulates the prophet, or his praying in the mosque. Is it part of his duty to give up praying and not to start his speeches with the name of God and not to use any verses from the Quran? We are struggling for granting journalists full freedom in the new constitution and to make sure they do not get jail sentences for publication offences. What do journalists offer in return to reassure people that they will not slander or insult them without proof or reason?
I think we definitely surpass Western media when it comes to the flow of information from unknown sources. Information is manufactured here and not extracted. We as journalists have to set rules as far as accuracy and sources are concerned and violators should not be allowed to publish their work or speak on TV.
In addition to paying a hefty fine, those journalists should be suspended by the media outlet in which they work for a specific time. This is done in the West. For example, the CNN and Time magazine suspended famous journalist Farid Zakaria when he plagiarized from an article by Jill Lepore, professor of history at Harvard University.
(The writer is the Deputy chief Editor of Al Arabiya Net. The article was first published in the Egypt-based al-Sabah on Oct. 7. 2012)