Monday, February 13, 2012

Time for Egypt’s media to stand united against military junta

Joseph Mayton 13 February 2012
Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: If anyone had any doubts over the role of the military in supporting justice and freedom were once again dashed on Saturday when Australian journalist Austin Mackell and his Egyptian translator Aliya Alwi were arrested in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla while covering the general strike called for by activists. The military detained them, then proceeded to belay any semblance of reason by fomenting charges, acquiring “witnesses” – including an 8-year-old – and charged them with “incitement” of violence.

For me, it was yet another attack on media by the military junta, which hit home. In December, I was arrested, dragged and beaten by the military police. They threatened to charge me with similar acts of “incitement.” Luckily, after 13 hours, I was set free, bruised but safe. Now, my colleagues are being taken to a military prosecutor and could face an illegal military trial for doing their job. For attempting to show the world the truth. This is the face of SCAF. They have lost all credibility and their stalwart attempts to paint foreigners, and especially journalists, as the enemy of the revolution, must come to an end.

The new Egypt post-Hosni Mubarak is looking more and more like the days of the Pharaoh, when NGOs, human rights advocates and media face abuse and jail. Egyptians fought for a new country, one of hope and change, but instead we are now revisiting the dark days of dictatorship at the hands of the SCAF.

Over the past 12 months, since the military junta took power in Egypt, the media has risen to speak freely, only to be pushed back into its shell over the summer month’s, when SCAF realized the media was becoming a threat. By “summoning” and interrogating bloggers, activists and media professionals, they have sent a message to journalists to keep their mouths – or pens – quiet.

In 2004, Egypt had a mere 40-registered blogs. Today, that number has risen into the thousands, and was instrumental in creating a new medium for the diffusion of ideas that ultimately gave strength to the protest movement on January 25, 2011.

Egyptian media remains scared and appears unready to have an in-depth examination into its own institutions and practices. Editors and publishers speak of freedom and a new way forward, but we have seen little to evidence any substantial change......"

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