Al Jazeera Journalists Facing Brunt of Mubarak Regime's Repression of the Press
The military regime under President Hosni Mubarak is increasing its crack down on the press as they move to contain the revolution unfolding in Egypt. The regime moved on Sunday to silence and suppress Al Jazeera and since the crack down journalists have been arrested and had materials confiscated.
The information ministry ordered a suspension of operation, canceled the organization's licenses, and withdrew all accreditation that had been granted to Al Jazeera's staff. The move came after days of Egyptian government interference in the operations of Al Jazeera, and Al Jazeera condemned the move to shut them down saying this was a "censoring and silencing" of the "voices of the Egyptian people."
Al Jazeera is the only broadcast from Egypt that seems to be going to great lengths to represent what is going on from the point-of-view of the uprising. Other news channels have an ear to the ground and are reporting, but they are not providing a platform for anonymous reports from protesters within the uprising like Al Jazeera.
Consider CNN: The cable news network provided coverage of Egypt over the weekend. But, what amount of coverage was not primarily focused on the economic or geopolitical implications? Whom from CNN was reporting from within Egypt and making certain images were put on air so Americans could see the unvarnished truth of what is happening? Sorry, Candy Crowley, Sen. John McCain or Sen. Chuck Schumer should not be given the privilege of helping Americans understand what is happening in Egypt; they have little connection to the uprising.
Early on Monday, six Al Jazeera journalists were arrested. They were released but had their equipment confiscated. (Just about the time they were arrested, this audio report was filed.)
The Mubarak regime is futilely working to prolong its reign over Egypt. The regime has made at least three military appointments over the past few days with hopes of appeasing the protesters. At least, that's been the offical story if you aren't watching Al Jazeera.
On Al Jazeera, the news is that protesters are chanting, "Civilian, Civilian Government, We Don't Want Anymore Military." The moves are being regarded as a sign that the Mubarak regime views the uprising as a security problem, not a democratic problem. The appointments of military men to posts suggest a brutal scenario may unfold over the next few days. Al Jazeera notes the military men have a history of handling terrorism in Egypt and a low tolerance for dissent.
Freedom of expression and freedom of press were probably never fully upheld by the Mubarak regime. But, Al Jazeera was broadcasting to Egyptians before the uprising and now they are being suppressed. Could this mean that the military is preparing to bring an end to the uprising through violence that it does not want the world to see?
The Committee to Protect Journalists Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem issued this statement, "The shutting down of Al-Jazeera is a brazen violation of the fundamental right of Egyptians to receive information as their country is in turmoil"The international community should prevail upon President Mubarak to lift this censorship immediately."
A posting on the Committee's website noted January 30 was the sixth day of massive street demonstrations. It highlighted how Internet and mobile phone service has been suspended (but mentioned that mobile phone services were largely restored on January 29).
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-FranÃ§ois Julliard issued this statement, "By banning Al Jazeera, the government is trying to limit the circulation of TV footage of the six-day-old wave of protests"Thus totally archaic decision is in completely contradiction with President Hosni Mubarak's promise of "democratic' measures on 28 January. It is also the exact of opposite of the increase in freedom sought by the Egyptian population."
The organization recounted how Al Jazeera has had problems with Arab governments. The Iraqi government closed down its bureau in 2006 (likely with support from the U.S.). The governments of Morocco and Kuwait shut down Al Jazeera's bureaus toward the end of 2010.