Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Obama Administration Ignores Suppression Of Free Speech In Morsi's Egypt

It’s clear that Egypt, following the revolution, is committed to putting into place a democratic government.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

Elliot Abrams challenges the idea that Morsi's cleaning out the military leadership and replacing them with Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers is a good thing. After all, the thinking goes, the military should ultimately be under civilian control.

Abrams notes, however, that the extent of Muslim Brotherhood control is being underestimated or ignored, as Morsi takes over control of the Egyptian media as well. So while one may argue that Morsi's taking control of the military is a good thing --
That optimistic view cannot be maintained when the Brotherhood is simultaneously making a power play to stop any press criticism of its actions and to pack Egypt’s media with Brotherhood sympathizers. These actions have received little attention and less criticism in the West, and recent American visitors to Cairo — Secretary of Defense Panetta comes to mind — haven’t even mentioned it. “American officials generally think that the Morsi government is off to a good start,” David Ignatius recently wrote in the Washington Post. Ignatius is a faithful stenographer for U.S. officials, and his columns on Egypt reflect no official concern about freedom of the press there. Nor does Ignatius, who as a journalist might be expected to think about the issue occasionally, show any concern himself.

But he ought to, and our government ought to, for Morsi has in fact moved to put the press under Brotherhood control.
Among the measures taken so far by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the media and inhibit free speech:
  • The Muslim Brotherhood is accused of being behind charges that the paper Al-Dostour insulted president Mohamed Morsi and is inciting sectarian strife in Egypt, and of raiding their offices and confiscating newspapers. Al-Dostour newspaper is known for its anti-Brotherhood coverage

  • Last week the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament, named new editors for the country’s 50 state-run newspapers

  • Morsi named a Freedom and Justice Party (FJP [the Brotherhood’s party]) member, Salah Abdel-Maqsoud, as his new Minister of Information--the propaganda ministry--causing concern the Muslim Brotherhood is in the process of taking control of the state media, preventing unfavorable reports about Brotherhood officials and making sure the press is more sympathetic. One of Abdel-Maqsoud's first acts was to ban the broadcasting of comments by Israeli analysts.

  • The new editor of Al-Ahram was suspended in 2010 for inflammatory words against Egypt’s Christian minority

  • The new editor of Al-Gomhuriya was involved in verbal attacks on Baha’is in 2009.
Read the whole thing.

Considering the way the 2012 presidential campaingn is going, one wonders if the Obama administration views Morsi's control of the media favorably because it likes the idea of a media that parrots their talking points.

In any case, it is clear that a free press is not a goal of the new Morsi government.
And that point should be made clear.

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