Some consider the sudden show of accountability in Egypt’s political sphere has been contrived as a one-off display to aid Egypt’s bid to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Amidst massive regional instability, the Al-Sisi administration is pushing to become recognised as key player for international security, and announced its candidature for a 2016-2017 Security Council seat last year.
The theory would suggest that it is in the interests of Egypt to appear more democratic internationally, as a way of enhancing its perceived legitimacy and demonstrate that it can contribute “to the maintenance of international peace and security”, as the UN requires.
For some, it is a likely theory when one wonders how state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram could run such a critical piece on the police, as it did in late April without the explicit approval and encouragement of the authorities. The rest of the press equally exist in an environment of self-censorship, sometimes censorship, state press and private pro-government press.
However, when Al-Masry Al-Youm, a private but pro-government daily, ran a large special on the violations of police, it ignited a dispute with the Interior Ministry, accusing the police of responsibility for deaths and abuses on their watch. The ministry responded by referring four reporters and the editor-in-chief to interrogation by State Security, Egypt’s supreme internal security authority that usually investigates terrorism and espionage. The defendants claim they have not been informed of what they are charged withs. With such a severe response to the journalism, it seems unlikely that it was a government encouraged exercise in accountability.
Similarly, Al-Dostour newspaper’s feud with the government is ongoing after their journalist Hussein Abdel Halim was arrested as part of what the Interior Ministry said was a crackdown on fugitives. The ministry said he is to be charged with cases dating back to 2003 for drugs, theft and bribery. However, the Al-Dostour newspaper and other journalists believe his arrest is in retaliation for a series of critical articles about police corruption and violations on citizens penned by Abdel Halim, with Al-Dostour calling the incident “the return of the police state”.
Finally, with this journalism written exclusively in Arabic, it seems unlikely the purpose of the writing was for foreign export. Such a campaign that aimed to represent Egypt as a thriving democracy would be better carried out in English and as a PR exercise by the Foreign Ministry and embassies abroad.