In spite of a string of worrisome human rights and freedom of expression violations, the Obama administration is holding out hope that Egypt's government lead by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is still headed for democracy. State Department official Richard Stengel, under secretary of state for public diplomacy, wrote a blog post this week titled "Egypt’s Chilling Detour on the Path to Democracy," where he expressed grave concern about the three Al Jazeera journalists convicted and sentenced this week for "terrorism" by an Egyptian court, as well as other repressive actions:
Imprisoning working journalists appears to be part of a broader effort by Egypt’s transitional government to repress freedom of expression and peaceful dissent. Along with the arrests of journalists, the government has imprisoned many nonviolent protestors, activists, and intellectuals. These actions call into question the stated intention of the Egyptian government to complete Egypt’s transition to democracy.
Stengel said Egypt's actions called into question "what kind of Egypt does President al-Sisi hope to build," yet said that "President al-Sisi assured Secretary Kerry that he desires to see the country advance." He also suggested that "political sentences and verdicts" and "injustices" of recent months called for quick remedies, including pardons, in order to help Egypt get a "fresh start" with the newly elected al-Sisi.
With many of the Obama administration's foreign policy woes centered in the Middle East, the administration has a lot riding on this "most populous Arab country" that it considers "a bellwether for the Middle East region." Egypt's actions regarding the imprisoned journalists and opponents of the government may give a good indication if the "Arab Spring" trumpeted by the president and his foreign policy team early in the president's tenure still has any life left in it.
Three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed for seven years in Egypt on Monday after a court convicted them of helping a "terrorist organisation" by spreading lies, in a case that has raised questions about the country's respect for media freedom.
Yes, that would raise questions. But:
Egyptian officials have said the case is not linked to freedom of expression and that the journalists raised suspicions by operating without proper accreditation.
Bankrolled by the oil and gas wealth of Qatar, now hiring 800 staff members and opening 12 news bureaus across the United States, Al Jazeera will soon be coming to a television near you. From its Doha headquarters, the media empire of Qatar’s royal family is launching a new channel dubbed Al Jazeera America, devoted to in-depth coverage of the United States.
On November 11, Al Jazeera announced from its home offices in Doha, Qatar that it had broadcast its first “Al Jazeera Balkans” news bulletin at 5 p.m., Bosnian time. A press release described Al Jazeera’s southeast European enterprise as “the first regional news channel,” which, the report continued, “fills a large gap in the market. News till now has been country specific.”
Bashar al-Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf, or the man even the New York Times is calling Syria's "Mr. Five Percent," has decided to give back to the community, somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. The regime in Damascus may hope to impress Washington, which has sanctioned Makhlouf, but it's not to keep the opposition at bay. Among Makhlouf's other holdings, there's his so-called "independent" TV station, Al Dunya, which of late the regime has used to insult Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the media holdings of Arab rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
There are two competing versions of former Guantanamo detainee Sami al Hajj’s story. The first, which has long been endorsed by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and many other journalists/activists, portrays Hajj as an innocent Al Jazeera journalist who was wrongly swept up in the post-9/11 world. The second, compiled by intelligence analysts at Guantanamo and other foreign governments, sees Hajj as a longtime extremist and al Qaeda member who used his job at Al Jazeera as a cover for his more nefarious activities.
It’s not on the front pages of the Western press, and it’s not leading the hour for the main Arab satellite networks like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, but the Syrian uprising continues apace, while the Assad regime’s countermeasures are becoming increasingly brutal.
Oh, Almighty Google Machine--I kid! We know you're not evil. You're the most benevolent algorithm ever. But everyonce inawhile, Google (which owns YouTube) drops a little data point about how it sees the world.
The majority Saudi-owned and Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) provides its subscribers in the Arab states with a large number of channels, including movies, music and other entertainment, but is best known for Al Arabiya, the 24-hour satellite news network. And it is Al Arabiya that was the chief target when saboteurs recently disrupted MBC programming.