Calm the public?

Rana Allam
7 Min Read
Rana Allam
Rana Allam
Rana Allam

Working in the media, producing a daily newspaper mainly concerned with politics, is a very hard chore in this country. It puts us in a difficult psychological state that rotates between fiery anger and absolute apathy, and we must always remain objective and balanced.

We come to the office to display the day’s news and our coverage of it. Every day there is a torture story, a death story, a sexual assault story, and a child abuse story. Every day we look for victims, their families, and their lawyers. And every day we are heartbroken and angry.

Then a day comes when we are not, and we realize that we are getting used to violence against the weak. Be it a man stripped and beaten, a group assault on a girl, a murdered young man, or a cancer child detained in prison. In all cases and regardless of how we feel, we publish the news and we inform the public.

The media role comes into question, and the attacks on our coverage of torture and sexual assault cases begin. Aren’t we being objective when we cover the incident, and say how it violates every human rights law on earth? Are we supposed to skip covering such incidents for the sake of “calming the Egyptian public”? Are we supposed to disregard the organized assault on our women, for the sake of the president and his “image”? Deny the public knowledge of what happens when the police detain a person, not publish the picture we took, for the sake of our policeforce’s reputation?

On the receiving end of our coverage is the Egyptian public, which is suffering from the same roller-coaster of emotions, seeing violence every day on TV and the Internet. Eventually, one day they do not want to see that any more, they do not want to be subjected to that any more, especially because they know there is nothing they can do about it unless millions upon millions take to the streets. We have gone on protests and on marches for two years to get our dignity back, to get our freedom, yet we still see men and women and children being abused and tortured.

We turn to our rulers, whose usual response is denying the problem. Getting the man to deny he was stripped, the girl to hide out of fear of getting assaulted again, or the parents to shut up for fear of what might happen to their child. Those who support our rulers also have their own rhetoric, which mostly defends the government. Comments such as “they are thugs, the girls are prostitutes, and the children are criminals”, fly over our heads day in and day out.

Semi-human beings of the Egyptian public would buy into that rhetoric, forgetting the fact that even if these victims of torture are indeed criminals one way or another, no human being should be subjected to torture and sexual assault. No child should be detained in an unknown cell. Regardless of who they are and what they do, no law allows this and no law should allow this.  They tell the public that the man had 18 Molotov cocktail bottles…and my question is, does this mean you need to strip him naked?

So we turn to find solutions with the opposition bloc, and we attend press conferences and read statements on how much each and every one of these leaders condemns violence. Then we ask for solutions, and their reply is always the same: the constitution needs to change, and the ruling powers need to bring to justice all those involved…and blah blah blah. Our question remains unanswered, what would you do if you were president? Do you have a plan for fixing the biggest problem in this country…the interior ministry? It is because of that oppressive inhuman institution that the people rose in 2011, and will continue to rise. Do you have a plan to overcome this?

Now we turn to activists and those who work the streets, and their reply is, as usual, to protest. So we have an anti-sexual assault women’s march coming up, forgetting the fact that the last one was attacked. The anti-harassment groups are fighting together. And those who go to Tahrir are still being assaulted.

Other activists are calling for removing the interior minister, and this is the hilarious part given that we have had five interior ministers in two years but the apparatus remains the same. We have even changed their slogans at some point!

Those who enforce the law should be the role models of upholding it. If the interior ministry issue is fixed, we will have no thugs on the streets, no criminals, no sexual assault, no torture, no child abuse. The weak and the innocent of this country will be protected, and the criminals will be dealt with by the law. Then, and only then, can we begin practicing democracy. It is dignity that people called for on 25 January 2011, not democracy by the way!

The key to calming the Egyptian public is to find a permanent solution for the torture apparatus of the country, and definitely not to silence the media or hide the ugly truth from the fragile public. Pushing the people to know  is the only way out of this mess.

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