24 February, 2009

Shooting the messenger

Last week el-Badeel reported some quotes from an opening speech of the minister of Manpower, Aisha abd el-Hadi, at a conference entitled "Media and its role in spreading awareness about economic change." Adressing the private and opposition media, she pleaded: "Take it easy with us, let's not set everything on fire." Apparently she made a distinction between news that "set the world on fire" and news that "calms the souls," adding: "The government would like to wake up without hearing about strikes and demonstrations."

It seems the management of Misr Spinning and Weaving in Mahalla must have been listening, because it has filed a court case against Ibrahim Eissa, the editor al-Doustour, as well as labour journalist Mustapha Bassiouny and the papers Mahalla correspondent Mohamed abu el-Dahab, accusing them of inciting the workers at the factory in an article published ahead of an anti-privatization protest that took place in October.

It's likely we'll see more attacks on the opposition media, and especially on papers like el-Badeel and al-Dostour that cover a lot of the strikes and protests that is happening in Egypt, in the coming year. With the global economy going into a recession that already hurt Egypt badly, it must be tempting for the government to deal with the crisis in the way any healthy authoritarian government would do: Eliminating the problems by shooting the messenger.

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