THUNDER BAY – Egyptians are emersed in the sixth day of protests. The people have taken to the streets in efforts to effect political change in their country. The government has reacted first with shutting down communications, turning off cell phones, and taking the unprecidented step of shutting down the Internet.
The next steps from the Mabarak Government are efforts to shut down the media. The Al Jazeera network has had their broadcasting licences, and press credentials revoked by the regime. Six of their journalists have been arrested, and while they were released, their cameras were seized by the authorities.
The Mobarak regime is taking the approach of deciding what is, or is not media. Likely part of the issue is that instead of simply airing the Egyptian regime’s point of view, the network is reporting what is happening. In otherwords, the government, or some agency of the regime is attempting to control the media, and likely not have what is really happening reported in the news.
When petty regimes take the approach of attempting to control the media, it speaks more for the dictatorial style of the regime than it does for the ideals of democracy. It is a situation that should never be allowed to be supported. It is an approach that must be fought with all the legitimate tools which are available.
What is very different with Al Jazeera is that the organization operates with a Creative Licence that allows anyone to use their footage as long as it is attributed directly to Al Jazzera. (http://cc.aljazeera.net/asset/language/arabic/footage-egyptian-protests)
It is likely that through this approach, the network is generating some serious viewership of their recordings. It is also, according to media reports generating requests by viewers to their local cable television providers to carry the network.
In Canada while there are some very issolated incidents where some individuals have attempted to control the media, such behaviour is unconstitutional. Freedom of the Press is enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The moves in Egypt, by the dictatorial regime to control the media reporting by Al Jazzera simply point to a greater problem in the country and demonstrate why the people are demanding change.
There are international implications to the situation as well.
The moves by the Egyption Government under Mabarak, have been supported by the United States for the past thirty years. President Barack Obama is now faced with the difficult choice of either stepping back, and letting the people of Egypt make decisions on what they want for their leadership, or to support the current regime.
Obama is between a rock and a hard place.
Right now across America people are turning up at rallies supporting the people of Egypt. Americans are seeking that the values that their Constitution enshrine be allowed to happen for the people of Egypt.
In Canada, Prime Minister Harper has yet to make an official statement.
Michael Ignatieff stated, “Canadians are looking at the events in Egypt with the hope that they can open the door to positive reforms in Egyptian governance. “Egyptians are expressing a desire for democracy and openness, and have grievances and concerns that need to be addressed. We hope President Mubarak will respond to these legitimate issues in a constructive spirit. No one wants violence to escalate, and we hope the Egyptian government, police and army, and those who are demonstrating, will show an equal desire for peace and mutual respect. Security and stability are legitimate human aspirations as well.”
Likely it is now going to come down to either a move by Mabarak to leave the country, or he will, with the Egyptian Military as his hammer, crack down on the people of his country.
What is most interesting is to witness how petty dictators attempt to control the media, and stifle communications to further their aims. It is an approach proven by history not to work. It didn’t work in Nazi Germany, it didn’t work behind the Iron Curtain in communist countries, and it isn’t going to work in other places either.
Those efforts are more likely than anything else to generate increased demand for change in Egypt, but also potentially in many other countries where basic freedoms are not the base upon which the society is formed.
Is change coming? It sure looks like it.