Tag Archives: Democracy

Al Jazeera Journalist Fahmy Suing Al Jazeera for “negligence” in Egypt Detention

A more detailed explanation by Fahmy on his intention to sue Al Jazeera can be found in the following link: http://www.theguardian.com/media/video/2015/may/11/al-jazeera-journalist-mohamed-fahmy-sue-network-negligence-egypt-video

Al Jazeera journalist, Mohamed Fahmy, filed a lawsuit against Al Jazeera seeking 100m Canadian dollars for “epic negligence” in its conduct towards him. He argued that it was partially responsible for his arrest and imprisonment in Egypt. Last June, Fahmy, along with two other Al Jazeera journalists were jailed on charges of helping the Muslim Brotherhood, which is deemed a terrorist group, and for spreading false news.

Fahmy’s criticism of Al Jazeera is twofold. Firstly, he accuses the network of failing to protect the journalists against the threat of arrest. They failed to provide the English channel’s staff with sufficient security, to clarify to Egyptian officials that it was different from the Arabic channels, and to provide the required press passes and equipment permits. Secondly, he accuses the network of further endangering the journalists when they were seized. The Arabic Al Jazeera channel, along with its Egyptian affiliate, Mubasher Misr, was highly biased and acted as the mouthpiece of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Fahmy argues that the Qatari-based network appeared more concerned with waging a media war against Egypt, which put its journalists in greater harms way.

Although not enough about his case has been made clear to the public, it does raise some important questions. To what extent is Fahmy purging the Egyptian government and authorities of his wrongful arrest and imprisonment? And to what end? In other words, how genuine is his case against Al Jazeera? Is it borne out of a genuine belief of neglect by the network, or out of self interest? It could be that this case is a means to gain compensation for his being jailed or even to win favor with the Egyptian government during his trial.

Despite my current skepticism about his intentions, there is truth to his accusations against the Arabic Al Jazeera channels. Many of its journalists expressed concern and criticism to the network over its increasing bias in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, many resigned for that reason. Moreover, the network did behave negligently with its staff. It put its journalists at risk by failing to provide them with appropriate paperwork. For example, Peter Greste – one of the imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists – along with other visiting correspondents were told to enter Egypt on tourist visas and to work without accreditation. Moreover, the network failed to renew many of the the resident staffers’ accreditations, which were approaching their expiration, including those of the jailed journalists.

The thought I’m left with now is that while Egyptian officials and the judiciary responded unnecessarily harshly with the Al Jazeera journalists, the arrests were not completely unjustified. It is interesting that none of the facts about the AJ staff illegally working in Egypt were made public in western media until now. Any such claims in Egyptian media were viewed by the west as attempts by Egyptian outlets to justify an oppressive system, thereby failing to recognize the complexity of the matter. What is even more baffling to me is how little Fahmy’s lawsuit is being discussed right now! It is such a dramatic and unprecedented turn of events that it deserves greater media attention than it is getting.

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32694739

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/feb/20/mohamed-fahmy-al-jazeera-protecting-journalists-cairo-agenda

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Egyptian Minister of Justice Resigns Over Elitist Remarks

The Egyptian Minister of Justice, Mahfouz Saber, heeded to public opinion and decided to resign after making elitist remarks that caused public uproar. In a TV interview, Saber said that the children of garbage men could not grow up to become judges, as they were not raised in the proper environment. These comments were made after the interviewer asked Saber whether there was favoritism in the appointment of judges. He responded by saying that the process was governed by objective standards. However, when the interviewer pushed Saber further and asked him whether “the son of a sanitation worker could be made a judge?”, his response was

“Let’s not go too far. With all due respect to cleaners and those above or beneath them, a judge must hail from an appropriate environment… Thanks are due to a cleaner who raises and educates his children, but there are other jobs that they can take.”

In response to his comments, the Egyptian public responded in a frenzy, denouncing them as contrary to the fundamental principles of justice. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former Vice President, noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights claims that everyone has “the right to equal access to public service in his country”. Moreover, many have pointed to the fact that Egypt’s constitution states that no one can be discriminated against based on class or gender.

While on the one hand, there is no doubt that his comments are normatively unjust and that a person who holds such views is not qualified to hold the position of the Minister of Justice, some found his comments to be painful for being a realistic depiction of the way the system works in Egypt. While we may not agree with Saber from a normative perspective, it is true that the son of a garbage man in Egypt cannot become a judge. Therefore the issue is a structural one and it cannot be solved simply by replacing the face of the Minister of Justice. True change will only be achieved if structural changes are achieved and the classist system in Egypt is eroded. This means that everyone must be granted the right to equality of opportunity in all elements of society and career paths must be government by meritocratic rather than patrimonial principles.

Sources:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/150511235911171.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32688825

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What if president Obama did what Morsi did?

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Despite the name of the article “Putting Egypt in Context”, it has failed to do exactly that. It completely takes Morsi’s actions out of context, not even mentioning how he made most of these dictatorial moves because he felt that he was being conspired against by the anti-Islamists. It’s a completely one sided take on the situation in Egypt.

However I will give this article some points for trying to make what happened in Egypt more relatable to the average American. Also, this article does bring up a very good point: why is it that Americans are criticizing Egyptians when they themselves would’ve never allowed for their president to do a single thing Morsi did? Why is there this belief that they somehow deserve democracy more than we do? This level of arrogance is beyond me.

I admire the Egyptians for not settling for an illiberal democracy. I admire them for recognizing that they deserve democracy just as much as an American or a Canadian or a European does. I am proud that the 25 January revolution has restored Egyptians’ self-worth.

Full article: http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/putting-egypt-in-context-what-if-president-obama-did-what-morsi-did/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=story&utm_campaign=Share+Buttons

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Wrong move General Sisi

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The Egyptian minister of defence General Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi has called for massive demonstration on Friday July 26, 2013 to give him the mandate to confront violence and terrorism. Up until this point I have held a lot of respect for General Sisi, who bowed to the demand of millions of anti-Morsi protestors by removing the tyrannical president and has since then remained clear of the political scene as promised. Although I continue to respect him, I have begun to doubt his judgement. General Sisi is risking the safety of the anti-Morsi camp by asking for them to protest on the same day that the Morsi supporters are planning a huge demonstration.

It is indisputable that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is a violent group. Since Morsi’s removal from power, their rhetoric has been disturbingly violent in nature as they have vowed to fight what they consider to be a military coup with their blood and as their leaders have rallied them to commit jihad in the name of protecting democracy. Since then, there have been many deaths of both army soldiers and MB members. The MB has been accused of killing the soldiers and even of killing their own protestors to frame it on the army and portray them as brutal against peaceful protestors. Whether or not this is true, (and knowing the radical nature of the MB, it may very well be) the army now seeks to end the violence on the streets.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the MB does poes a threat to national security and does need to be dealt with, this is not the way to do it. It is one thing to crack down on the violent members of the MB that pose a threat to national security. It’s a whole other thing to request the mandate of the people through a demonstration to do so. General Sisi’s declaration has been perceived as a declaration or instigation of civil war by the Muslim Brotherhood. Rather than encouraging reconciliation, this move is deepening the divide in Egypt and creating volatile conditions where the possibility of a civil war is not as far-fetched anymore. Especially since the MB will perceive this declaration as a threat to their survival as a group, and considering their radical nature, they will respond violently.

I understand that attempts at reconciliation with the MB are practically hopeless because they have laid down impractical preconditions for dialogue that lack any sort of pragmatism, such as: the reinstatement of Morsi as president, the recognition that the removal of Morsi was a military coup and the apology of the military for the violence against the pro-Mosri protests among other things. Moreover, they have refused invitations to be included in the interm government. Nevertheless, bringing the anti- and pro-Morsi protests onto the streets at the same time during such a tense period is a provocative move that can only end in bloodshed.

It is clear that we no longer just need a roadmap for democracy in Egypt, we need a roadmap to reunite Egyptians once again.

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Democratic Coup

Democratic Coup

Call it a coup if you want. But it is not a military coup. It was not instigated and led by the army. This was a democratic coup. A people’s coup. The army was simply the agent that fulfilled the demands of 33 million protestors, who wanted to remove a dictator from power.

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When is it okay to forcibly remove a democratically elected president?

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A statement made by Omar Robert Hamilton in his article “Totalitarian Democracy” really put the disposal of Morsi into perspective. In his article he asked “Is it more democratic to elect a dictator, or to topple one?”. This was in response to Time Magazine, which called Egyptians “the world’s best protestors” but the “world’s worst democrats”. And their reasoning for this is that it is undemocratic to remove a democratically elected president, which is the most simpleminded, out of context reasoning I have ever heard.

Ask yourselves this. When Egyptians removed Mubarak, did they do so because he wasn’t democratically elected? No, that’s only part of the reason. They removed him because he was a tyrannical dictator. So, it has nothing to do with whether or not Morsi was democratically elected. It’s about the fact that Morsi proved to be as much of a dictator as Mubarak. It’s about wanting to finally break the dictatorial trend that has plagued Egypt for decades.

Look at it this way. In a democratic system, presidents are given the legitimacy to rule by the consent of the people through elections, and they have to maintain that consent throughout their time in office. So although Morsi was democratically elected (sort of, let’s not even get into the problems with the legitimacy of the elections), the 30 June protests proved that he no longer held the people’s consent. Tamarod alone gathered 22 million signatures against Morsi (which was a lot more than the number of people that voted for him), and it was estimated that 33 million people protested against him on 30 June. To the protestors, it was no longer an issue of removing a legitimate and democratically elected president, it was an issue of removing a dictator from power because despite being democratically elected (again, sort of), he had lost his legitimacy to rule. And the reason he lost his legitimacy was not only because he was incompetent and managed to worsen the economic situation in Egypt. That is not enough of a reason to forcibly remove an elected president. The Egyptians removed him because he proved to be a dictator.

So ask yourselves this. If the president you elect turns out to be a dictator, is it undemocratic to remove him? Is it even a question of whether or not he was elected? Isn’t removing a dictator irrespective of how he got to power democratic? Of course it is. A dictator is a dictator. Period.

So, the question now is: was Morsi a dictator? The answer is simple. Yes.

As soon as Morsi came to office, he monopolized power to himself and the Muslime Brotherhood. In his constitutional declaration, he placed himself above the law by declaring that his decisions are to be immune to judicial supervision and scrutiny. He also shielded the Islamist dominated Constituent Assembly and Shura Council from court dissolution and gave himself the power to remove and appoint the prosecutor general despite this being against Egyptian law.

Moreover, he failed to represent the diversity of the Egyptian population in his government as it was dominated by Islamist groups. When the opposition groups demanded a more representative, nonpartisan government or a coalition government, their demands were denied by Morsi.

Morsi also attacked freedom of speech by arresting and imprisoning those who defamed him or Islam. The most notable example is of the satirist Bassem Yousef, whose only shield from being imprisoned was his national and international popularity.

Moreover, Morsi alienated the Egyptian protestors. He did not listen to their grievances, as he didn’t consider them to be a real threat to his power. His speeches before the protests were out of touch with the demands of the people, non-conciliatory and provocative. He did not make any of the political changes that had been demanded by the opposition and the protestors such as making constitutional amendments or creating a more inclusive government. He illegally accused individuals (by name) of corruption on live television without evidence. Moreover, his speeches incited violence and had dictatorial overtones as he stated that he would protect his position with his blood and that it was either him or civil war (sounds familiar, doesn’t it? *cough* Mubarak *cough* Bashar Al-Assad *cough*).

And finally, he deepened the sectarian divisions in Egypt as he instilled an in-group out-group mentality between Islamist and non-Islamist parties, between Muslims and Christians, and between Sunnis and Shia Muslims.

Therefore, it is not difficult to empathize with the Egyptians who felt Morsi had never been the president of the Egyptian people. He had been the president of the Muslim Brotherhood. He had never represented the interests of the Egyptian people, he had only represented those of the Muslim Brotherhood.

So I really take offense in the statement made by Times Magazine because Morsi was a dictator. And it fascinates me that anyone can be narrow-minded enough to call a nation that toppled a dictator from power to desperately try and preserve the principles of democracy, which had been the basis of their revolution “the world’s worst democrats”.

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Cartoon of Egyptian 2012 Elections

Cartoon of Egyptian 2012 Elections

The poor and simple minded in Egypt were pressured to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood through bribes and religious threats.
Do you still think you were elected democratically Morsi?

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