Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In Search of Balance: Al Jazeera Verdict In Egypt Today

A strange mix of feelings of sadness, dismay and anger arise in me as I read seemingly endless attempts from many Egyptians to justify and defend the court ruling against the Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, here are some of my reflections and thoughts on this:

1. I don't view Al Jazeera Arabic as normal media or press, I view it as enemy state propaganda outlet, it reminds me so much of the Soviet Radio during the years of the cold war, it is pathetic, cheap, non relenting propaganda.

2. Al Jazeera English has many top notch reporters and professionals who have been trying to do a credible job and seem to have more professional more balanced overall editorial management, but they have been used by their Arabic Language sister company mentioned above.

3. I don't believe Al Jazeera English correspondents and other professionals working in Egypt are affiliated with Muslim Brothers, work for them or conspire with them and I don't believe that the evidence against them, I read about in the press, has shown them to be enemies of Egypt.

4. I believe that Egypt is right to arrest, deport and fine those who break its laws.

5. I acknowledge that there are thousands of Egyptian and foreign reporters reporting and writing at times negative and / or highly critical news and analysis of Egypt, yet appear to have not been interfered with, which is good and is indeed a legitimate argument to defend Egypt's position, being focused on Al Jazeera. Yet, the Dutch Journalist, who was being tried in absentia with Al Jazeera staff, appear to have no affiliation with Al Jazeera.

6. It is also very clear that the space for dissent in Egypt is narrowing and we see many Egyptians voices silenced from Bassem Youssif to Belal Fadel and many others. It is hard to deny this as a fact.

7. I have a great deal of sympathy with the view that Egypt is facing a very serious war with a very difficult enemy and that combating the threat of violent terrorism is a TOP priority for Egypt. I do believe that this would naturally have an impact on freedoms. Years in the security industry have taught me the difficulty of balancing issues of security with privacy, convenience and freedoms in general; true in Egypt as it is in USA or Australia.

8. I have a great deal of sympathy with the view that Egypt has always had authoritarian and totalitarian tendencies and desire to curb dissent and the government has had a history of using the worst means to silence liberal non Islamist opposition to protect the ruling regimes, often at the expense of the country itself and its future.  Accordingly, using terrorism as an excuse to suppress freedoms should not be just allowed to happen with no opposition.

9. I do believe it is critical for Egypt, as a state to avoid the collapse that can be witnessed in so many failed states in the Middle East, the examples of Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq are chilling and frightening and I have sympathy with the tens of millions of ordinary Egyptians, who are willing to turn blind eye to suppression of freedoms to preserve the State from collapsing.

10. Sadly, I believe that insensitivity by some of the liberal forces in Egypt to the grave Islamist threat that Egypt is facing, is causing them to challenge the State authority. With tens of millions of tired and frightened ordinary Egyptians wanting the State to reestablish its authority, the ill timed courage is resulting in deeper suppression of freedom, with popular consent, this is most distressing of all. My hope is that the vigilance against the excesses of the State would be confronted through means other than the hated and futile street protests.

June 24, 2014

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