In the past month, as a journalist, I was involved in discussions with several organisations that defend and protect journalists on the best way to handle Egypt’s crackdown on journalists and how to protect them. My opinion was always the same: in a country that follows no law, there can be no protection. There is nothing to be done when the state itself is breaking the law.
I was shuddering when I watched the Al Jazeera journalists’ arrest video, and my head was pounding as I saw how journalists are treated as terrorists, how our state’s justice is selective, how defamation has become normal, and how privacy laws are thrown out the window time and again in this country.
In nationalistic words and tone, TV show host and Deputy Chief Editor for state-run Al Ahram newspaper Ahmed Moussa presented a video depicting the moments of the arrest of Al Jazeera journalists. Playing in the background of the video was the Thor soundtrack; showing the heroism of our state security in cracking down on a “terrorist cell” hiding in a five star hotel in Cairo’s busy, posh Zamalek area was the intention of the long-time state security informant Moussa.
The “terrorist cell” shown in the video had all one needs to perform a terrorist act: a camera, a printer, hard disks, and lo-and-behold $700… how brave of our officers to be faced with such weapons and hold their ground!
A couple of years ago, it was videos and pictures of the arrests of Mubarak-era corrupt officials (who by some miracle were almost all found innocent of all charges against them), then came the era of Morsi, and the same was done, videos and pictures of their arrests. A few weeks ago, personal phone calls of political activists were aired on TV and no one lifted a finger.
Human rights advocates decried such invasion of privacy and waved human rights laws at the faces of the ruling regimes. Voices objecting to how the state is treating these journalists rise with inhumane stories as denying medical treatment, letting them sleep on the floor in the cold without so much as a cover on them – abuse of all kinds is being reported from these cells. In fact, all that’s happening is a complete violation of all laws known to a 21st century world.
The recently approved constitution states:
- Article 55: All those who are apprehended, detained or have their freedom restricted shall be treated in a way that preserves their dignity. They may not be tortured, terrorised, or coerced. They may not be physically or mentally harmed, or arrested and confined in designated locations that are not appropriate according to humanitarian and health standards. The state shall provide means of access for those with disabilities. Any violation of the above is a crime and the perpetrator shall be punished under the law.
Egypt’s prosecutor general seems to be too busy to uphold the law or investigate trivial things like how the police and the media are consistently defying the constitution. He is probably busy with investigating Pepsi and Vodafone advertisements, and perhaps the content of phone calls to find charges to bring against political activists.
The Press Syndicate, along with state-owned Al Ahram newspaper, find it acceptable to have a member who violates the laws of journalism, and is disgustingly unethical for a deputy chief editor in the most read newspaper in Egypt.
The minister of information, whose history as head of the Egyptian Media Censorship Authority should be taken into consideration, also finds it acceptable for private Egyptian television networks to break the law and defy the constitution.
“Innocent until proven guilty” seems to escape the minds of police in Egypt. Defamation and ruining someone’s reputation are all in a day’s work for media professionals of Moussa’s calibre.
No one upholds the law in this country. And indeed no one cares about justice.
Dear reader, I hope you realise that it could be you. You could one day be involved in a “terrorist cell” filming an advertisement for Pampers, and the low-life rap singer-cum-political analyst Spider might find some Masonic-Iranian-Hamasian-Israeli symbolism in your ad, the police officer might not like you, might film your “terrorist filming location” and play Thor in the background, confiscate your camera and all those terrorist hard-drives. You, working in the ads business would probably have more than the $700 they found on the Al-Jazeera journalists.
Dear reader, you could be next, as I said earlier: In a country that follows no law, there can be no protection. So go slow on the sharing and on the hailing of that video!