The “Freedom to Scream” in Egypt

I’ve been digging into our data on the Arabic language blogosphere lately, so I was drawn immediately to Michael Slackman’s great piece in the Times today on blogging in Egypt. He writes that critics of the government are relatively free to complain about the government and even the security services in Egypt, but that taking any steps towards real world protest will quickly get you into hot water. As Egyptian writer Fahmy Howeidy says in the article, “I call it the freedom to scream. You can say what you want, but you cannot act.”

However, bloggers appear to be treated more harshly for their writing when compared to newspaper reporters. As the Times piece states, “For some reason, as yet unexplained, blogging seems to cross the line from speaking to acting.” This may in part due to self-censorship at newspapers, who know which lines can and cannot be crossed. Slackman writes that criticism of the president, for example, is something newspapers treat carefully while bloggers can attack Mubarak “head-on.”

Many Egyptian bloggers have also been jailed for their writing; over 100 bloggers are facing criminal charges according to Gamal Eid of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in Cairo. This includes Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, around whom there is a large online movement pressing for his freedom that was started by Esra’a Al Shafei.

It may also be that the large online presence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is illegal in Egypt and whose members, including bloggers, are often arrested and tried before criminal courts, also explains why bloggers are singled out by the government for speech that is otherwise allowed. According to our research, Egypt is a a major part of the Arabic language blogosphere, and we are planning to write a piece exclusively on data around Egypt after our overview case study on the trans-national Arabic blogosphere is completed. Not surprising, the Muslim Brotherhood is a distinct and large group within the Egyptian blogoshere, where we’ve seen they often talk about the arrest of bloggers within their network, freedom of speech and the right to criticize the government. More often, it seems, than the establishment of Islamic law in Egypt. Check back here for more on the Arabic blogsphere, the countries that dominate it, and the media and linking preferences of bloggers who write in Arabic.

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2 Responses to “The “Freedom to Scream” in Egypt”

  1. » Egyptian Dissident Suddenly Released From Prison I&D Blog Says:

    […] a backdrop of increased repression of bloggers and other political speech, Ayman Nour, a political rival to Hosni Mubarak, has been released from […]

  2. Great Egypt Says:

    For all the progress that Egypt , has made recently, it is really too bad that freedom of speech is not being embraced.