The purpose of this blog post is to break the barrier of fear that has been subconsciously built after we read the sad and somewhat scary news that came out today: Maikel Nabil has been sentenced to 3 years for “insulting” the military and spreading false news.
If I’m not arrested within the next 3 days for writing this, then you can go ahead and express yourself without worrying again (2ib2o ittamino 3alaya yareet). If I am arrested though then start preparing “Free Amr Bassiouny!” posters for next Friday, and get the #FreeBassiouny hashtag trending on twitter and all that. Oh, and I expect no less than 50,000 members on my Facebook page. =D
The following is a completely insult-free expression of my personal opinion, if anybody isn’t happy about it they can go ______ themselves (it wasn’t me!).
Why did we have a revolution bizzapt?!
We all forget to go back and think of the main reasons why we had this revolution, so let me remind you; they were all political in nature. This was not a revolution that started for economic reasons, we didn’t go out on the 25th and 28th saying we want cheap bread (because we were all well-off and coming from Dokki and Heliopolis), but we wanted to take the political system down.
Taking the political system down is a big word though, when you get into the nitty gritty it’s mainly the following:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of assembly/expression/protest
- Freedom of press
- No torture
- The ability to choose our leaders
- Going after old regime’s corrupt leaders
- New constitution
- No more lies
Since the military took over, what of the above have we gained ground on? Let’s take them one by one.
1. Freedom of speech
Verdict: Worse than before.
Back in Mubarak’s days, they would have to cook something up on the guy who pissed them off. For example, in Ayman Nour’s case, they had to cook some bogus fraud charges to give him a few years in jail, they couldn’t just straight up convict him of spreading “false” information about Mubarak’s regime’s corruption and all that.
Maikel got it straight-up though. Nice and honest.
2. Freedom of assembly/expression/protest
Verdict: Same as before
This is a tricky one. When Mubarak was around, we couldn’t really protest properly but it was 100% legal provided you liasied with or received a go-ahead from the ministry of interior before hand. Under the emergency law, which is now not in effect, assembly of several people was illegal, and so a “permit to assemble” was required. This didn’t mean of course that if things got out of control, riot police wouldn’t crack on you. They would. Whoever did got a good beating and maybe arrested, beaten and thrown in the middle of the desert to have to find his way back home (permit or not, if they don’t like it the response would be similar).
Under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) though, we can protest bira7itna, but they are treated as if they’re illegal (the law is vague enough to not really mean all protests are illegal, but pretty much any protest can be). Every once in a while the military will go ahead and brutally attack everybody and arrest many and maybe even kill a few. Then they will go around telling everybody it was the protesters who shot at them first and that the protesters were hurt due to stones being thrown from other protesters (it doesn’t have to make sense). Either way, there’s always a threat of having the law used against you, since it’s illegal to protest.
So in case 1 it’s legal to protest but you can’t, in case 2 it’s illegal to protest but you can. I can’t make my mind up as to which one I would prefer.
I would say it’s a tie at this point, though I expect it to get worse in the coming future.
3. Freedom of Press
Verdict: Worse than before
Back in Mubarak’s days, there was always a clear line between who was saying the truth and who wasn’t, who was opposing the regime and who was getting orders from it. Things have changed a little now, it seems that all those who used to oppose Mubarak in the past have now become 100% controlled by the military.
Considering Maikel Nabil only got a total of zero mentions in the newspapers, and zero mentions on TV (until the verdict was passed), I would say that is highly suggestive of a very serious level of control on the media. Also, considering that Wednesday and Thursday always have the highest concentration of anti-bad guy news to appease the crowds before Friday, I would confidently raise an eyebrow to that.
I could go through tens of other points, but then things like spreading lies about April the 8th and what happened there as well as no mention of the officers that escaped is even more evidence that there are red lines that cannot be crossed.
Finally, some information got through to me from journalists working in liberal and privately-owned media outlets (trying to be very non-specific here) mentioned they had orders not to speak about the military negatively. This link just came in to confirm this: http://ebfhr.blogspot.com/2011/04/letter-from-army-to-egyptian-newspapers.html
Also, articles written about Mubarak now are harder to get printed than ever, as they hold a high risk of libel considering the threat he issued recently about publishing “false” information about him.
4. No Torture
Verdict: Definitely a step up!
The police now are probably a lot more touchy feely about torturing people, and State Security isn’t half as powerful as they used to be, so torture by police is definitely down.
On the other hand, we have a far more posh and reputable torture scene going on these days. Instead of being tortured in an underground dungeon in SS Nasr City by rude SS officers, you get to be tortured by high-quality Egyptian Armed Forces in the historic Egyptian Museum in Tahrir.
Human rights groups and political activists are extremely happy about this improvement, and they have been buying cakes and sending them back and forth throughout the past month in celebration.
5. The ability to choose our leaders
Verdict: Same as before
If the Military didn’t think we should choose between them and a presidential council, then we don’t have a choice. When we do, I’ll change the verdict to it being better than before.
Also, instead of creating a referendum and rigging it like Mubarak would, they made a referendum and then did whatever they had planned for as if the referendum never even happened.
They should have come out and said “Ba3taaaa!” like we used to do in highschool. And if you don’t remember what a ba3ta is, it’s when you point to the left and say “An elephant!” and your friend looks to the far left and you say “Ba3taaa!” then point at him and laugh in his face.
6. Going after old regime’s corrupt leaders
Verdict: Same as before
They left Mubarak in his villa in Sharm El Sheikh probably using satellite phones to transfer his money and sell his assets all over the world, while they scapegoated relatively innocent ministers like Rashid Mohammed Rashid and Ahmed El Maghrabi and jumped them from day one.
It seems it was generally a show that they were staging for us, and continues to be. They arrest specific people during strategic times to look like they’re doing something only when everybody starts getting angry, then nothing happens after. Just like the good old days.
7. New Constitution
Verdict: Same as before
Do I really need to explain this one?
8. No more lies
Verdict: Same as before
Let’s just say that the SCAF have a very hard time not contradicting themselves several times on the same subject during a press conference. Nothing has changed on this point, the truth is only told if it works in their favor. I can be greedy about this point and go on and on about all the times where they said something and did the exact same opposite of what they were saying, but then I will simply mention three times where the opposite of the truth was told: Torture in museum, virginity tests and everything about April 8th in Tahrir. That’s more than enough to act as proof for this subject.
5 Same as before (63%)
2 Worse than before (25%)
1 Better than before (12%)
Overall, things are pretty much the same, if not worse. The only thing we have today that is better is that peaceful protesters get to be tortured in an internationally-recognized tourist destination rather than an underground prison cell.
I would like to end this post with an actionable conclusion. Unfortunately though, the only action I regard as helpful is to to ask you all to continue protesting in Tahrir Square, and to my dismay that carries a hefty fine of up to 500,000 EGP or 1 year in prison. So, definitely don’t go protesting, that’s a horrible idea, because personally I don’t have 500,000 LE, which means I’ll end up spending a full 365 days in prison with Ahmed Ezz and Habeeb El Adly getting on my nerves, and that would be an epic #Fail situation.
All I will say is “hint hint” and “nudge nudge”. Hinting and nudging are legal, right? I didn’t say anything, I’m just saying …
Finally, I would like to say that none of the above represents my personal opinion in any way, shape or form. In fact, everything written above is complete crap (just in case, you know).
و الله الموفق
Oh, and follow me on twitter for more on all my other personal opinions that I don’t believe in: @AmrBassiouny