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Egyptian blogger jailed

The New York Times is reporting that the Egyptian military government has jailed a human rights activist for criticizing the military.

The blogger, Maikel Nabil, 25, had assailed the Egyptian armed forces for what he called its continuation of the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Nabil often quoted from reports by established human rights groups.

Mona Seif, a rights advocate, said Mr. Nabil may have been singled out as an easy target, partly because of previous run-ins with the military and partly because of his pro-Israel views. Mr. Nabil, who is Christian, refused to fulfill his obligatory military service in 2010 on pacifist grounds and has campaigned against forced conscription ever since, Ms. Seif said.

For those who are concerned that the military may prove unwilling to allow major political reform in Egypt, this willingness to jail a dissident is incredibly worrisome.

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Turkey jails some journalists

Alleging that they were plotting a coup, the government of Turkey has jailed three journalists, according to the Washington Post.  This is one part of a bigger story:

The EU and the Committee of Protect Journalists have accused Turkey of suppressing critical news and commentary on the alleged anti-government conspiracy. About 400 people, including journalists, politicians, academics and retired military officers are on trial accused of being part of the so-called Ergenekon network in a conspiracy to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Turkey is the most dynamic economy in the Middle East (unless you feel that Turkey is part of Europe, not the Middle East).  It is also the most dynamic democracy (save maybe Israel), so to see the state taking illiberal steps is disheartening.

“Who says media members have legal immunity? Can’t they be prosecuted? Are they exempt from laws, taxes?,” Erdogan said.

In an unrelated note, Cliff sent me this link to share from The Daily Show.  The clip touches on an important theme:  The United States wants democracy in the Middle East, but now that we are getting it, and it is coming at the expense of pro-US autocrats, there is a new anxiety among previous advocates for democratic change.

More problems in Egypt

Yesterday hundreds of arrests were made in order to break up rallies of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Al Jazeera has the story (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/11/20101119212833744148.html – my  button to imbed links in the text still isnt working). 

Streets were cordoned off and police reportedly used tear gas, knives and tasers on Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were seen throwing chairs and stones.

A Muslim Brotherhood member, running as an independent candidate in the district of Mena el-Bussal in the upcoming polls, led the march in Alexandria. Supporters were heard chanting: “No, no to election fraud. Yes, yes for change” and “God is great, Islam is the solution”.

Iran uncomfortable with new television channel

An article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/20/world/middleeast/20afghan.html?_r=1&ref=middleeast) reports that a Rupert Murdoch-owned Farsi1 television channel is drawing ire in Iran.  Recently, the stations website was hacked into and an ominous message was posted warning against intrusion of Iranian family values.

The campaign against Farsi1 illustrates the growing fear among Iranian leaders over the intrusion of private broadcasters onto the country’s airwaves, which is challenging the state’s monopoly over the flow of information.

Egyptian blogger completes prison term

Kareem Suleiman was an Egyptian blogger who was imprisoned for defaming President Hosni Mubarak, for inciting hatred of Islam, and for encouraging the overthrow of the government.  He spent 4 years in prison, but is a free man again as of today.  This Al Jazeera report has more details on the case.

Libyan leader orders release of arrested journalists

Muammar al-Gaddafi has ordered that 19 reporters arrested this past weekend without any official charges be released from prison, according to this BBC News article.  The article speculates that the arrests are motivated by conservative frustration with Gaddafi’s liberal son Saif al-Islam, who is affiliated with the press agency that the journalists were from.  The article ends by mentioning Saif al-Islam is a potential successor of his father.

Calls to Jihad on Youtube taken down

Anwar al-Awlaki had several of his videos, which call for Jihad, taken down from Youtube after petitions from the US and British government.  As this New York Times article explains, Youtube took those requests much more seriously as al-Awlaki is affiliated with the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda connected to the recent plane bombing plot.  The challenge that Google-owned Youtube faces is avoiding unnecessary censorship of free speech.  The article concludes

“YouTube and Google deserve credit for trying to distinguish videos that are merely offensive from those that show graphic violence or hate speech or risk inciting imminent violence, which is the line American courts have drawn in free speech cases since the 1960s,” Professor Rosen said.