CAIRO: May was the worst month in the past quarter century for the freedom of expression, says a report recently released by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo). According to the report, the actions the government took between April 24 and May 25 were among the worst months in the country’s history.
“What Egypt witnessed during the month . was not only a violation against Freedom of Expression. Rather, it was an attempt to erase this value and this right completely, the June 14 report reads. “Violations during that month were committed against hundreds of Egyptian citizens who were only practicing their legitimate right to express themselves and support the judges in a peaceful manner.
According to HRinfo more than 35 journalists, bloggers and poets were repeatedly attacked during this period. The report gives a detailed account of the action taken against each person.
“It wont be an exaggeration if we describe that month of being the worst month for press freedom and freedom of expression during the last six years, if not during the Mubarak s rule that was characterized by emergency laws and oppression of liberties in general, the report states.
The report tells of reporters who were kidnapped at demonstrations downtown, beaten and their equipment destroyed. It also gives background into Mohamed Sharkawy’s case, which has galvanized a waning opposition.
However, not everyone is convinced of the accuracy of referring to some of those mentioned in the report as bloggers. Faisal, an Egyptian blogger, believes that even if someone might post an entry on a blog every so often, that does not make him or her a blogger.
“The media is abusing the situation that exists with some of the activists that have been detained, Faisal argues. “Since these people have been arrested, the western media especially, has been quick to say that these people are a part of the media, but in reality they are not.
“These people, like Sharkawy and Karim El Shaer, are activists, but for a lot of western newspapers to pick up their story they have to call them bloggers, or journalists, or something in order to get the attention of their audience, he continues.
Faisal believes that the treatment Sharkawy was given by police was absurd and there is no excuse for that behavior. However, he is skeptical of how the media is using these people for their own benefit.
“They don’t really get to understand these people . one person tells them that they wrote a blog and that it is . they are media, Faisal continues. “It is unacceptable that in order to get a story these people must be in the media or the west doesn’t want it.
Still, the report goes on to elaborate on little known cases of abuse by security forces, including the incident of Abier Al Askary, a reporter for Al-Dostour. While her case was reported in Arabic press, little mention in English press existed. The report says that she was kidnapped while covering the solidarity with the judges’ demonstration on May 11.
“State Security officers took advantage of the incidents on 11 May and the demonstrations in solidarity with the judges. They kidnapped Al Askary off Sayeda Zeinab Street and beat her. They stole her bag, papers and phone. In front of the Sayeda Zeinab police station she tried to call for help from pedestrians passing by. Security officers beat her and insulted her. One of the officers told the pedestrians that she was arrested for prostitution and that he just arrested her from a brothel, the report explains.
Six of the individuals listed in the report are still in detention, including a symbol in the west, Alaa of www.manalaa.net. Some have been detained since late April.