Freedom of Speech in Egypt (part 1)

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In a special two-part series, Egyptian international student Amr Moufid looks at the state of his home country and the ways that freedom of speech is being challenged.

Opinions may differ, points of view might well clash, but facts remain facts regardless of anyone's personal feelings. Egypt is presently, as far as I'm aware, the only country to keep two of its Presidents (out of a total of five, not counting Acting Presidents) behind bars.

It is helpful to bear in mind however that, neither of these two Presidents ever dared to use the army against the people so as to keep in power, something which cannot be said of presidents of some other countries. But still, an unusual situation exists and deserves some reflection; all living Egyptian Presidents are, in accordance to the wishes of the people, locked-up.

Political Satire Gagged

To add to their already towering heap of trouble, the Egyptian people's newly rediscovered voice is under threat yet again. An Egyptian television host of a satirical news program was suppressed for making some mild, watered-down, soft jokes, aimed at some members of the government, during the previous week's show.

Bassem Youssef'sEl Bernameg' undeniably played a major and brave role during the latest revolution, publically exposing the past government's fundamentalism, corruption and fascism. All of this, without violent means, while simultaneously making people laugh, and without interrupting work, but most importantly still, while under constant threat of being arrested.

In response to last week's show- the first following the removal of ex-president Morsi from power- many viewers took to the streets and attempted to physically prevent the show from being filmed. "This is not the time to scrutinize the army's or the government's actions, harsh, one-off policies might be understandably taken given the current situation, let them do their work, don't criticize, this is no time for freedom of speech or for questioning the authorities"- so some of their arguments went.


Satire of General El Sisi conquering ex-president Morsi

Nonetheless the show was recorded successfully; it was only a few minutes prior to its airing time that the show was announced to have been cancelled. For this kind of freedom, people are not yet ready- or so some people believe. The red line was crossed.

Keep an Eye on your Leaders

Lately, many Egyptians have become more attached than ever to their army and especially to its leader; finally they have found someone they can trust. Now more than ever, they have become very protective of their military. These are sensitive times. This is an ancient country, yet to date, it has been served by only five presidents, two of which, to put it politely, have been found to be unfit.

Even if one ignores all other facts and issues surrounding the country's current political situation- all the corruption, all the strikes, all the protests, all the revolutions- one may still be able to produce a single, pivotal piece of advice, which cannot be repudiated, to the benefit of the average Egyptian, it being:

"Keep an eye on your leaders. It's probably wise, given the current statistics, to be a little skeptical; that would be understandable."

We will publish the second part of this post in the coming days. Amr K. Moufid is an Egyptian student studying music in London. You can read more posts by him here.

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