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Egypt, Human Rights and Media Coverage

February 4, 2010

Forget Iran, China, Libya and all the usual suspects for a minute. When it comes to Human Rights violations, Egypt ticks all the boxes. A dictatorial regime in the full sense of the word, election fraud is a policy, presidency is almost certain to be passed down from father to son, and the country is in a league of its own when it comes to police brutality. You’d think this is more than enough for western media to mobilize and report the plight of the Egyptian people and their quest for democracy.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Western media – right and left – consistently chooses to ignore people’s acts of dissent in Egypt. You could even argue that dissent in Egypt is more widespread than in Iran. For while dissent in Iran is mainly constituted in middle and upper classes, dissent Egypt is almost unanimous.

“In June 2009 — the month when disputed Iranian elections brought thousands of anti-government protesters into conflict with riot police and left blood running through the streets — Iran was featured in 742 articles. In April 2008 — the month when an attempted Egyptian general strike brought thousands of anti-government protesters into conflict with riot police and left blood running through the streets — Egypt made an appearance in 28 pieces, almost none of which mentioned Mahalla (the town at the heart of the unrest).” The NewStateman

Another puzzling observation is the western media’s disinterest in the gross crimes of Egyptian police. Even state-monitored Middle Eastern media was more consistent in reporting the force’s abuse. Egyptian police is very well known to use techniques such as bullying, torture and sexual assault – which policemen film and circulate.

“… the unelected political elite of the Arab world’s biggest country consistently reject democratic freedoms, subvert the rule of law to protect their hegemony, and encroach on the human rights of that country’s citizens day in, day out. A brief perusal of this week’s country report on Egypt by Human Rights Watch would provide a taste, however — the organisation helpfully points out that despite the media frenzy over the number of post-election arbitrary detentions in Iran, Egypt’s estimated tally of detentions without charge is 150 per cent higher.” The NewStateman

Why then do we spare Egyptian authorities our penetrating gaze?

Is it simply that Egypt is not as engaging a narrative? Is it an increasingly deep-rooted contempt for anything Islamic, and so the regime in Iran fits more the image of The Evil Dude than Hosni and his cronies do? Or is it because Egypt is a reliable ally of Israel?

Maybe we do, after all, see the world through spectacles set by the likes of Bush and Blair. Maybe although some of us disagree with their wars, we at the same time have fully subscribed to their listings of who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are.

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