CAIRO: The Center of Socialist Studies held a lecture Sunday entitled Bloggers are also in Jails to discuss freedom of expression in the wake of 21-year old blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman Amer s four-year prison sentence.
The lecture hosted three speakers: Ahmed Seif El Islam, lawyer in Hesham Mubarak Center for Human Rights, blogger Nawara Negm and Alaa Seif El Islam, dubbed the godfather of Egyptian bloggers. Each speaker emphasized the importance of free speech and how it is impeded in Egypt.
Alaa Seif El Islam began with a synopsis of the important and effective past and present of blogging in Egypt. He cited an example of online torture clips which exposed torture and police cruelty. .
Blogger Nawara Negm said she was optimistic about the young Egyptian bloggers. Even though most of them see only corruption, they still love their country and are loyal to it.
Alaa went on to discuss freedom of expression on the Internet not only in Egypt but also on an international level.
It is not only oppressive countries, or countries which have strong religious institutions, that fight freedom of expression on the Internet, said Alaa, adding that the struggle is international which should make activists everywhere feel that they re not alone, and that they have supporters worldwide.
Regardless of the advantages of censoring some web sites, if there are any, censorship affects activists in a very negative way, he said. But the good news is that the Internet has given people the chance to get all kinds of information online.
“Censorship is a lost cause for governments, he said and even if they ban one or more individuals, they won t be able to ban the thinking itself.
Reflecting on Amer’s case, Alaa said that eventually in the future, freedom of expression online will win.
But the speakers agreed that they didn’t believe the Egyptian government took an actual role to influence Amer’s case. They simply used it to set a precedent.
The most threatened freedoms at times when citizens demand political reform are those that are socially controversial such as freedom of thought and expression and freedom of belief, said Ahmed Seif El Islam.
He explained that since the government wants to pass more laws to shackle general freedoms, they can and do exploit people s social and religious feelings to control political freedoms.
Nawara Negm showed a mixture of optimism and pessimism. She was pessimistic about the state of the Egyptian opposition in general, saying that the worst thing she learnt through her involvement in Amer’s case was the corruption of the opposition.
The people who ignored his case shocked me, she said.
The same sentiments were echoed by journalist and blogger Hossam El Hamalawi, who said that young people from the late teens to the twenties are able to do and say things his generation couldn t do and say because they were seen as taboos. He says the reason is that they did not experience real cruelty by the government before, so they don t have red lines.
Alaa finished off by saying that he thinks the Internet will be even more widespread with the advent of Wi Fi technology which has even reached the countryside.