Egyptian Internet freedom suffering
A series of government crackdowns are making free expression in Egypt even more discouraging.
It wasn't too long ago that Egypt seemed to be a symbol of a new wave of democracy, brought on with increased Internet usage. However, as the interim government continues to secure its foothold as the ruling power in the country, this potential for this becoming true lessens.
The Egyptian revolution, which was a part of the wider spread Arab Spring that started in late 2010, was praised on a number of fronts including its use of the Internet to mobilize. Twitter played an integral role in the Egyptian revolution because it helped bring protestors from various parts of the country to Cario's Tahir Square to help depose then dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Over the course of the protests, the lines between citizen and journalist blurred as the footage that was posted to social media became some of the most compelling.
However, since then, the future of democracy and free expression in Egypt has suffered. The first elected president, Mohammed Morsi has since been deposed, and the military has assumed the role of an "interim government," though it is difficult to see where its future status lies. Seemingly in efforts to maintain its power, authorities have been cracking down on citizens and journalists alike who seem to indicate any semblance of discontent toward the state of the Egyptian government.
Social media arrests
One instance of this can be seen in the recent arrest of 11 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Associated Press reported that these individuals were arrested because of running Facebook pages that are being used to incite violence against the police.
Violence against authorities has grown as tensions continue to mount regarding the interim government's extended stay. This has led to the jailing of a number of Islamists, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The news source noted that an al-Qaida-inspired militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks, however, the government accused the Muslim Brotherhood as the orchestrator.
This has made Internet freedom a difficult place for netizens to voice their opinion. On top of this, the government plans to introduce anti-terrorism law that will prohibit any ideas or beliefs that call for the use of violence. However, this is a law that could be broadly applied and used to eliminate dissent all together.
Another alarming report coming out of Egypt indicated that 20 journalists working for the media outlet, Al-Jazeera have been arrested for "aiding a terrorist group" and endangering national security. The AP reported that these arrests mark the first time that journalists will be put on trial for terrorism-related charges.
The Qatar-based news outlet extensively covered the Egyptian revolution and the rest of the Arab Spring. The AP noted that it has been one of the few organizations in the country that still provides coverage for the Muslim Brotherhood. The government accused Al-Jazeera for being biased toward the group, though the news service itself denies doing so.
The U.S. government has denied much of the annual aid that it provides Egypt as a result of these limitations on freedom of expression and the press.
"The government's targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims is wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms," said Jen Psaki, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, according to the news source. "We strongly urge the government to reconsider detaining and trying these journalists."
These practices are certainly alarming, especially in a country that once showed so much hope for free expression and democracy. If the goals of the Egyptian revolution are to be realized, the government needs to changes its policies with regard to free expression going forward.