Free Speech in Egypt?

Shadi Hamid of The Atlantic, in his blog on Middle East policy,  raises the issue of free speech in Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. Since last year, President Morsi has apparently used existing Egyptian penal code to censor or silence newspaper critics who advocate overthrow of the current system under the Brotherhood in much the same spirit as the collapse of the Mubarek government. Morsi has even gone so far as to fire primary military officials who would have led such a coup, and has used the law as his protection or justification for such action. Hamid discusses in the conclusion of his article the fact that the Brotherhood seems to have shot itself in the foot in terms of legitimacy, and laid the groundwork for such an attitude towards a secular candidate, leading to ongoing instability in the state.

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Hamid’s article raises a valid point – how will free speech in common media be handled going forward in Egypt, and how will new media affect governmental institutions? The answer seems to be that existing laws will be carried out as convenient under the elected government, though it is still somewhat in the development period. New media, however, offers a bigger issue. Twitter and facebook helped drive the overthrow of Mubarek, and spurred the development of a new political and social culture in the country that is now butting heads with the traditional conservative culture of the Muslim Brotherhood. Such forms of new media, in concert with blogs and other resources on the internet have the potential to undermine the “establishment” now prevalent in the country. Media seems to be a double-edged sword; it has the potential to start a revolution, and the potential to keep that revolution going longer than healthy.

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