Egypts media is freeto praise Mursi

Sharif Nashashibi
Sharif Nashashibi
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With freedom of expression comes responsibilities, says Mursi. Such responsibilities seem to include preserving the feelings of a president who is easily insulted

Sharif Nashashibi
Besides the authorities, Brotherhood supporters and hardline Salafis have also carried out campaigns of intimidation against political parties and the media, which is fighting back, with words and deeds.

In December, various newspapers refused to print their daily editions. The independent al-Tahrir said its decision not to publish was a stand against “tyranny” and “continued restrictions on media liberties, especially after hundreds of Egyptians gave their lives for freedom." The daily al-Masry al-Youm said the papers were “protesting against the articles on the press in the draft constitution.”

Following the release of the draft to the public, newspapers went on a one-day strike to protest, among other things, the absence of any article prohibiting the arrest of journalists. Prior to that, three independent newspapers ran white boxes on their editorial pages “to protest against attempts by the Brotherhood to impose its control over the press and media belonging to the Egyptian people," wrote al-Watan.

Defaming religion

However, the problem goes beyond insulting a sensitive president and Brotherhood - religion is also untouchable. Mursi has called on the U.N. to consider international action to crack down on speech that defames religions, and this approach is already being implemented domestically.

Famed Egyptian actor Adel Imam, along with other established filmmakers and screenwriters, have been charged with committing blasphemy against Islam for films they took part in over a decade ago. Imam was sentenced to three months in prison and a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds, although the Haram Misdemeanor Appeals Court has since acquitted him of those charges.

In September, a court upheld a six-year prison sentence for an Egyptian Christian charged with insulting Islam and the president, just a day after the opening hearing in the trial of another Egyptian man accused of insulting the religion.

That same month, an Egyptian rights group said it would ask the country’s highest appeals court to consider the case of an Egyptian Shia convicted of desecrating a mosque, and prosecutors brought charges of defaming Christianity against a Muslim who ripped a Bible.

After deeply dividing the country by temporarily declaring himself above the law, creating a constitutional crisis, curtailing the judiciary and military, and muzzling the media - whose freedoms he had vowed to uphold - who else will be the target of Mursi’s, and the Brotherhood’s, consolidation of power?

(Sharif Nashashibi, a regular contributor to Al Arabiya English, The Middle East magazine and the Guardian, is an award-winning journalist and frequent interviewee on Arab affairs. He is co-founder of Arab Media Watch, an independent, non-profit watchdog set up in 2000 to strive for objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media. With an MA in International Journalism from London's City University, Nashashibi has worked and trained at Dow Jones Newswires, Reuters, the U.N. Development Programme in Palestine, the Middle East Broadcasting Centre, the Middle East Economic Survey in Cyprus, and the Middle East Times, among others. In 2008, he received the International Media Council's "Breakaway Award," given to promising new journalists, "for both facilitating and producing consistently balanced reporting on the highly emotive and polarized arena that is the Middle East." He can be found on Twitter: @sharifnash)

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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