Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No freedom of speech in Egypt

Moneer Said Hanna is an Egyptian civil servant. One day, he wrote a satirical poem about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. For this, he was arrested and jailed for three years for "insulting the head of state".

Egypt is not alone in having laws aimed at protecting the "dignity" of the leader. Like the old law of lese majeste, they are based on medieval conceptions of what peasants were allowed to say (and think) about their "betters". Such laws - and indeed, the underlying conceptions of "peasants" and "betters" - have no place in a modern democracy. But that's the problem: Egypt isn't a democracy, but a dictatorship, where the government holds power by systematically terrorising the population and "wins" elections by beating, gassing, and shooting the opposition.