After President Morsy’s decision to release chief editor of Al-Dostour newspaper Islam Afify from temporary detention, almost all opinion writers have criticised the President for not using his so-called powers to abolish all laws relating to ‘offending the President of the republic.’ Despite praising the move to release the editor, many writers have questioned why Morsy is maintaining laws that prevent journalists from criticising the ruler.
On another note, several opinion writers have recalled the anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests on 24 August. Some columnists have commended Shafiq and Abu Hamed supporters for their action against the once-banned group, while others saw the event as a renewal of Egypt’s long-missed scenes of black comedy.
Why does the Muslim Brotherhood fear criticism?
Saad Al-Din Ibrahim
Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper
He believes that the Muslim Brotherhood has been unifying efforts to “Ikhwanise” all institutions in the country since reaching power, while also striving to impose their concept of capitalism in even the smallest villages of Egypt. Ibrahim describers Abu Hamed’s call as a ringing bell warning against the Muslim Brotherhood’s dangerous plan to rule the roost in Egypt.
The writer compares the current scenario with that during the 1970s when Greek and Italian businessmen were pressured out of trade as part of the ‘nationalisation’ process. The Muslim Brotherhood intends to carry off all concepts of the 25 January revolution as a first step to ‘abducting’ Egypt and its identity. Ibrahim estimates that while Muslim Brotherhood figures or the group’s allies are currently heading different institutions, Egypt’s perilous journey signifies a complete snatch of the Egyptian identity and culture.
Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper
Salmawi praises President Morsy’s recent decision to cancel the temporary detention of chief editor of Al-Dostour Islam Afify from charges including “offending the President of the republic.” Salmawi would have liked to see Morsy cancel Article 179, which carries penalties of imprisonment for all publication offences. The writer states that democratic societies refrain from enforcing such laws that seal the mouths of journalists and citizens from criticising the ruler.
Article 179 was one of the mostly condemned articles during Mubarak’s era and while activists and journalists called for its cancellation, the ousted President kept it as a weapon against anyone inclined to criticise the head of state.
Salmawi explains that the article is not only a danger to journalists, but also to any ordinary citizen who contributes an op-ed to any newspaper or comments on any article critical of the President. It was expected that Morsy would use the same power, when cancelling the supplementary constitutional declaration, to abolish laws that restrict the freedom of expression including article 179.
Salmawi calls on Morsy to take another courageous step and cancel all articles related to publication offences, with Article 179 on the top of the list.
Praising Morsy’s decision and waiting for more
Emad Al-Din Hussein
The basic features of professionalism and objectivity press anyone to commend President Morsy’s latest decision to cancel temporary detention of journalists. Hussein believes the move to release Islam Afify from detention has saved Morsy and his deputy from a fierce wave of attacks. A few hours before Morsy had announced the release of Afify, he had lost the support of many activists and media professionals. In Hussein’s estimation, a charge against the editor has brought Egypt back to the dark years of Mubarak’s rule.
After Morsy’s move, the writer believes the coming era will see a genuine practice of freedom of expression. Free media is one of the best treatments for the illnesses that accompany authoritarian regimes. In this regard, the writer stresses that the media should actively play the role of revealing corruption and bias. Morsy’s decision to pardon Afify is regarded as a positive initiative and an effort that aims to prove his belief in freedom of expression, even if he himself is being criticised. In the media, there might not be crystal clear solutions to many chronic predicaments, therefore Hussein calls upon all journalists to unify efforts and ouster all laws that paralyse freedom of the press.
The black comedy of 24 August
Qandil criticises protests against the Muslim Brotherhood, organised by former parliamentarian Mohamed Abu Hamed and Ahmed Shafiq’s supporters, but allows it did provide the kind of black comedy that Egypt has been missing of late.
The meager number of protests who demonstrated against Mohamed Morsy and his once-banned group did not even reach the number of martyrs and those missing on after famous Friday of Anger during the 25 January revolution, according to Qandil. If the protest was ‘a million man march’ or a ‘revolution’, he ironically asks for a redefinition of the terms.
Qandil then relates to the occasion of releasing Islam Afify from temporary detention. Although respecting the initiative, the writer insists that the journalist belongs to the yellow press and does not deserve the attention he craves. However, all journalists were cornered to react positively towards the decision. Qandil finally calls upon the journalists syndicate to revisit its code of conduct and ethics to prevent more production of tabloids.
Why didn’t Morsy cancel the charge of ‘offending the president of the republic’?
Sharing the concerns of many of his fellow journalists, Ibrahim Mansour criticises President Morsy for only releasing Islam Afify from temporary detention while not using his authorities to abolish the law against ‘offending the president of the republic.’ Despite Afify’s freedom, the writer regards Morsy’s reaction as proof that Egyptians, and mainly journalists, will never be granted full freedoms under his reign. It is only thanks to the 25 January revolution that Morsy was able to nominate himself for the presidency.
The uprising shook the country with a strong call for all sorts of freedoms and social justice. The writer condemns the President for not using his powers to completely abolish laws that punishes journalists for criticising the ruler in the same way he has used his powers to suddenly cancel Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ supplementary constitutional declaration.
Mansour reminds Morsy that almost all presidential candidates argued for eliminating laws that restrict freedom of expression. It is important that the President is reminded that sugar coated statements will not be positively perceived by Egyptians who have finally managed to break a rigid regime of corruption and censorship. He finally demands Morsy immediately use his so-called powers and scrap any charges relating to ‘offending the president of the republic.’ In his viewpoint, no more presidents will be immune to criticism.