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Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

The State of the Egyptian Press

A few days ago I was able to provide a look into our work through the full text of our weekly published reports. I was able to attend a lecture at the American University of Cairo featuring Jihan Sadat in which she talked about her husband’s legacy in striving for peace and women’s rights. It was a pleasant tale, though made somber by the fact of his assassination, though it has now been over twenty years since it took place.

 Today’s link to my report discusses a more controversial subject. In the West we can have a nose-in-the-air attitude toward human rights in the rest of world. We are rightly proud of our freedoms and principles, yet while we wish these to be generalized in the whole world, we usually assume that ours is the measuring stick by which other societies are to be judged.

 I do not mean to call this assumption into question, only to point it out. The reality in the rest of the world is complicated. Though independent analysis would likely confirm the greater freedoms found in the West, it would also state the longer heritage we have had in crafting and guaranteeing these freedoms. It would also mark our many missteps along the way.

 Hisham Kassem has spent his life involved in Egyptian journalism. He is uniquely placed to comment on the state of the Egyptian press, and granted access to his viewpoint in a lecture delivered to the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo. If anything, I was surprised by how few people were there, especially given the importance of his remarks. In addition, most of the audience consisted of foreigners.

 Though his lecture was delivered before that of Jihan Sadat, we debated a little longer about publishing it. His comments are not inflammatory, but journalism is a sensitive subject here, even though, as he states, Egypt is one of the most open nations of the Middle East. In the end we thought to allow it, for they are his comments, not ours. Since he feared not to publish his views, neither should we. The text of the report follows below:

 

Prior to the revolution of 1952 Egypt had a strong tradition of journalism with independent newspapers driven by a market economy. President Nassar, however, institutionalized the press, giving newspaper licenses only to his close confidents. He also established an official position of state censor… (click here for link)

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