Over the weekend, as I was writing a piece about the failure of the Egyptian Army to put a stop to former President Mubarak's grisly practice of arresting people on the flimsiest grounds and then proceeding to detain, torture and abuse them, I was reminded of a couple of other big things the Army isn't being helpful about.
One of them is press freedom. The other is labor unions. In the former, the interim military government is proposing new regulations that will give journalists less freedom, not more. And in the struggle of working people to morph from pathetic "company unions" to free and independent 21st century unions, the Army seems to be a significant obstacle.
When the Army first weighed in on press freedom, I was cautiously hopeful.
Here what the Supreme Council said:
"Maintaining the council's policy to communicate with the Egyptian population and the youths of the revolution these days to spread the truths and reply to rumors that may harm the revolt's achievements and cause strife between the Egyptian people and the Armed Forces, the council stresses on the following:
"1- Since the beginning of the January 25 Revolution, the Supreme Council has been keen not to interfere in the editorial policies of all kinds of media.
"2- The media in Egypt is absolutely free to publish or discuss any matter and assume responsibility for the consequences of its coverage based on its credibility.
"3- All statements issued by the Supreme Council are made without the hiding of any facts as the council believes in the importance of spreading truths as soon as possible.
"4- The ultimate goal of the Supreme Council and the Egyptian people
nowadays is to support all kinds of Egyptian media to restore its vital
role that made the most powerful impact on our Arab and Islamic nation a while back."
Well, that was encouraging. Restoring the press's "vital role."
Until I learned that the Army (which is ruling Egypt until elections can be held) has issued orders that require local print media to obtain government approval, before publication, for any reference to Egypt's armed forces.
A letter sent to editors by the director of the "morale affairs directorate" of the Egyptian military ordered them not to "publish any (topics, news,
statements, complaints, advertisements, pictures) pertaining to the armed forces or to commanders of the armed forces without first consulting with the Morale Affairs Directorate and the Directorate of Military Intelligence and Information Gathering."
Sound familiar? That letter could have been signed by Hosni Mubarak!!
According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, the letter's content has not been reported in Egyptian publications, but "the regime of censorship has been noted by bloggers."
There is nothing theoretical about the Army's intentions. Witness the military court in Cairo sentencing blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to three years in prison for "insulting the military." His crime: Writing an article in which he criticized the military for not being transparent in its decision-making.
And what was he doing in a military court? He was there because he wrote about the military.
Sanad, 25, was sentenced after participating in a hearing on his case that left the defendant and his lawyer believing the case would be continued later.