Renowned writer and columnist Alaa Al Aswany has announced that he has stopped writing his weekly column before issuing criticism of the current state of freedom of expression in the country.
“As soon as you express a different opinion, television presenters insult you using the dirtiest language and accuse you of betraying your country. This is emotional terrorism and is carried out under approval of the authorities,” Al Aswany said on Twitter on Monday.
He added that only one opinion is now permissible and that “criticism and difference of opinions are no longer allowed. Only praise at the expense of the truth is allowed”.
Al Aswany thanked his readers for following his columns in private newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm and told them “we will meet somewhere else soon, God willing”.
The writer has been a strong critic and opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, but has also recently critcised President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. In his tweets Al Aswany said Al-Sisi is calling on us to “act with morality”. “Is it moral to accuse an Egyptian citizen of treason on television just because he disagreed with the president?” he asked.
In a column Al Aswany published with Al-Masry Al Youm earlier this month, he said: “I have written that Al-Sisi’s campaign is being run by officers serving in the military, which makes him the army’s candidate and makes the [presidential] elections undemocratic. This was my opinion and I waited for someone to discuss it with me.” Instead, he was surprised by a group of people attacking him on television, he wrote. Now in Egypt, it is only permissible to “glorify Field Marshal Al-Sisi”.
“The environment of oppression and suppression of freedoms is growing every day,” he added.
Al Aswany also declared his solidarity with Belal Fadl, a columnist and screenwriter, whose series Ahl Iskendereya (The people of Alexandria) was recently banned from airing on two private television channels. The move came after public television channels refused to run the series, which focuses on the life of a corrupt policeman before the 25 January Revolution.
Following the move, Fadl said in a statement that this “practically prevents the series from being shown this year”. The series was intended to run during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which has the most competitive television airtime of the year.
Al Aswany said the show was banned to punish Fadl “for opposing the current authorities. The Belal [Fadl] I know will not be afraid and will not change”.