Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Middle Eastern Media
Iran: Sotoudeh Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison, Banned from Travel and Practicing Law
January 10th, 2011 by Naureen
On Sunday, Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
was sentenced to 11 years in jail for “anti-regime propaganda, acting against national security and failing to wear Islamic cover in a film.” Sotoudeh has also been banned from practicing law and leaving the country for 20 years. According to her husband, Reza Khandan, the main charges against Sotoudeh were a result of interviews she gave to foreign news outlets and allegations that she was a founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, an association of lawyers led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. Khandan also said that Sotoudeh believed her sentence was politically motivated, as she was told by interrogators before her trial that her sentence would be “guaranteed to be more than 10 years.”
Update: Philip J. Crowley, State Department spokesman, condemned the verdict and called for her immediate release stating, “Ms. Sotoudeh is a strong voice for rule of law and justice in Iran. We are dismayed by her continued detention and loss of the right to practice law. Her conviction is part of a systematic attempt on the part of Iranian authorities to silence the defense of democracy and human rights in Iran.”
Egypt: HEC is “Decorative,” Media Report from EASD
November 28th, 2010 by Jason
A statement released yesterday on the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) website criticized the High Elections Commission (HEC) for actions prior to the election that were somewhere “between timid silence and speaking on behalf of the Interior Ministry.” The statement specifically denounced the failure of the HEC to “implement all Administrative Court orders to reinstate candidates rejected by the security directorates.” Also, a report from the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development looks at how the Egyptian media covered the different political parties during the first week of official campaigning, which ran from November 14th to November 19th.
Egypt: Media Suffering Under “Wave of Repression”
November 28th, 2010 by Jason
Bahey eldin Hassan writes
at Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel that “one of the brightest spots” in Egyptian political life over the past decade has been the “emergence of a freer media climate and more open public discourse on political issues.” These advances are now under threat, however, because the Egyptian government “has turned the entire media scene upside down, forcing it to abandon critical discourse and uproot real political debate from the electoral coverage.” According to Hassan, the government has formed a “special security-media team,” meant to compile a “list” of the most influential “columnists, independent papers, news channels, [and] heated political talk shows,” in order to silence them. “Following the proverb that says strike whoever is in reach and those roaming free will fear,” television stations have been taken off the air, talk shows have been canceled, and the editor of Al Dostor
, Ibrahim Eissa,
was fired. Hassan links the “wave of repression” to the effect that the parliamentary elections will have on next year’s presidential election.
Egypt: Domestic Monitors Face Challenges
November 22nd, 2010 by Jason
Bahey el-din Hassan
writes in Al Masry Al Youm that civil society and human rights organizations face three major challenges in monitoring Egypt’s November 28 elections: First, the groups must obtain permits from the High Elections Commission (HEC), a process that has become increasingly opaque. “Although the HEC set 7 November as the deadline for human rights groups to submit applications to monitor elections, it set no date for the issuance of permits,” he writes. Also, the HEC “mandates that monitors be impartial, but how can the commission, with its limited resources, evaluate thousands of monitors for bias? Or is it planning to outsource the job to the security apparatus?” The second major hurdle for groups is a lack of accurate information, a problem exacerbated by the “deplorable state” of the HEC itself. The third challenge are the restrictions placed on the press. “The regime launched a quiet coup in October that restructured TV and print media and placed enormous restrictions on the free flow of information. This means that election monitors will do their job in the dark,” according to Hassan.
Al Masry Al Youm
that the head of the HEC, Al-Sayed Abdel Aziz, has now “definitively” stated that “there would be ‘no monitoring’ of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, stressing that the role of civil society and human rights organizations would be limited to ‘following’ the elections rather than ‘monitoring’ them.”
POMED Notes: “A Changing Middle East: Iran, Turkey, and Prospects for Peace”
November 16th, 2010 by Jason
On Monday evening, as part of the 2010 Foreign Policy Initiative Forum, a panel discussion was held titled “A Changing Middle East: Iran, Turkey, and Prospects for Peace.” The discussants were Elliot Abrams, of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Eric Edelman, of the Foreign Policy Initiative and Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The discussion was moderated by Lee Smith of the Weekly Standard.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Posted in DC Event Notes
, Human Rights
, Islamist movements
, Middle Eastern Media
, Political Parties
, US foreign policy
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Egypt: Political Opposition Responds to Continued Obstacles
November 8th, 2010 by Anna
Yesterday, Al Masry Al Youmreported
that Mohamed ElBaradei has accused Egyptian officials of wiretapping the office of his campaign’s general coordinator. On his Facebook page, ElBaradei wrote that he will “request an investigation into this scandal which has attacked the rule of law and violated the personal privacy of citizens,” adding that this is further indication of the regime’s “insistence on oppression and on dispersing opposition voices and the demand for democratization.”
On Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood held a series of protests in Alexandria, following the reported rejection of some members’ registration papers last week. Observers said that violence broke out in some neighborhoods between demonstrators and security forces. Also on Saturday, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that all political parties must be allowed broadcasting time on state television in order to publicize their platforms.
Egypt: Al Dostor Writers Continue Publishing Online
November 5th, 2010 by Anna
Earlier this week, staff from the Egyptian daily Al Dostor announced that they will continue to publish material on their website, which they have renamed “The Real Al Dostor.” The domain name for the site is registered under Ibrahim Eissa’s name – as such, it will maintain the same editorial policy as the original paper, according to the site’s managing editor Hesham Obia
. Al Masry Al Youm
reports that about 37 former writers for Al Dostor will contribute stories to the online version, and Eissa is reportedly paying them out of his own pocket while the team searches for sponsors. The newspaper’s former managing editor, Ibrahim Manour, confirmed that the group plans to launch a print version “as soon as we get a new license.”
Egypt: New Election Website, IRI Delegation to Egypt
November 3rd, 2010 by Jason
Al Masry Al Youm
has set up an English language website focusing on the upcoming elections. The website includes sections for photos, video, and media monitoring. Al Masry Al Youm
also has a report on the arrival of an International Republican Institute (IRI) delegation in Cairo. The delegation met with members of the National Council of Human Rights (NCHR) including the head of the parliamentary elections unit, Makram Mohamed Ahmed
, and Mahmoud Karem, NCHR secretary-general. According to the report, the delegation from IRI asked why NCHR had denied international election monitors access to the country. “‘It’s a popular decision coming from people, not the state,’” said Ahmed. Ahmed’s statement seems belied by polling data showing that the Egyptian people due, in fact, support international election monitors.
Morocco: Al Jazeera Suspended Over “Tarnishing Image”
November 1st, 2010 by Anna
The Moroccan government reportedly suspended Al Jazeera’s service in the country on Friday, a move the satellite television network condemned. The government charged the network with deviating from accepted standards of journalism, adding that its “refusal to be objective and impartial systematically tarnishes Morocco’s image.” One unnamed official stated that the government objected to “the way Al Jazeera handles the issues of Islamists and Western Sahara,” where over 2,000 Islamists have been detained since 2003. Magda Abu Fadil, director of the Journalism Training Program at the American University of Beirut,
writes at Huffington Post that “[r]un-ins with Arab governments have been a trademark of the channel, whose motto ‘the opinion, and opposite opinion,’ has often landed it in hot water in a region where personality cults and state-run media are standard fare.” Al Jazeera got in a spat with the Jordanian government last month over the jamming of World Cup broadcasting, and officials in Cairo have criticized the network’s editorial policies and “anti-Egyptian reports,” according to Abu Fadil.
Egypt: Wafd Threatens Boycott After State TV Interference
October 26th, 2010 by Jason
According to a report
in Al-Masry Al-Youm, Wafd Party is threatening to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections after allegations that Egyptian state television refused to air the opposition party’s advertising. The president of Wafd, Sayyed al-Badawi
told Al-Masry Al-Youm that “the party may decide to boycott the poll if the state does not respond to the party’s demands and prove its impartiality.”
In other election news, 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested for putting up campaign posters in Alexandria. The campaigners were working on behalf of Boushra al-Samni, the group’s parliamentary candidate for the female quota seat in the district.
Egypt: More Television Stations Closed, Facebook Ban Possible
October 21st, 2010 by Evan
Al Jazeera reports that Egyptian authorities shut down 12 more private television channels on Tuesday for allegedly violating the terms of their broadcast licenses. Egyptian Information Minister Annas el-Fiqi said that the move by NileSat, Egypt’s main satellite operator, was a “corrective measure” necessary to protect viewers. Meanwhile on Egypt’s most popular talk show, Masr ElNaharda, commentators with close ties to the government suggested banning or passing laws to regulate Facebook. At The Guardian’s Comment is Free Osama Diab writes, “The suggestion of a ban on Facebook shows that the regime is worried of any medium that shows real trends and statistics in Egypt that they have no control over. It’s also because the regime is definitely losing the Facebook numbers game; it’s hard to imagine that Mokhtar [a commentator on Masr ElNaharda] would have still suggested control over the social network if it was President Hosni Mubarak who got a quarter of a million fans on his page rather than ElBaradei.”
New “World Press Freedom Index” Shows Decline in Middle East Media Freedom
October 20th, 2010 by Anna
Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index today. In the Middle East and North Africa, press freedom saw mild improvements in some places, but deterioration overall. Morocco dropped 8 places in the global ranking, which the report’s authors attribute to “the arbitrary closing down of a newspaper, the financial ruin of another newspaper, orchestrated by the authorities, etc.” Tunisia’s score also worsened “because of its policy of systematic repression enforced by government leaders in Tunis against any person who expresses an idea contrary to that of the regime,” as well as a new amendment to the penal code that essentially criminalizes contact with foreign organizations that could damage national economic interests. In Syria and Yemen, press freedom continues to suffer as arbitrary arrests and torture are “still routine,” and crackdowns in Iran have kept that country at the near-bottom of the index. The rankings went down for Bahrain and Kuwait due to an uptick in charges against bloggers, including prominent Kuwaiti blogger Mohammed Abdel Qader Al-Jassem. The Palestinian Territories rose 11 places because “the violations committed in the year just ended are simply ‘less serious’ than in 2009,” and Algeria also saw mild improvements in media freedom. In Iraq, a higher score reflects the fact that journalists now work in safer conditions than in the past.
Posted in Bahrain
, Middle Eastern Media
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Egypt: Journalists Continue Protests
October 19th, 2010 by Evan
Egyptian journalist continued to protest
the firing of Al-Dostor
editor Ibrahim Eissa yesterday at the Higher Press Council’s headquarters. The protesters are calling on the new owner of Al-Dostor, Reda Edward, to meet their demands, which include the reinstatement of Eissa and executive chief editor Ibrahim Mansour. According to the journalists, Eissa’s sacking was planned by Edward and Wafd party chairman Sayed Badawi, who is also a co-owner of Al-Dostor, long before the recent crackdown on press freedom in Egypt began. “‘It was just a matter of time before Badawi and Edward got rid of Issa. The approaching elections hastened their decision but it was going to happen sooner or later,’” Al-Dostor journalist Hazem Fouad told the Los Angeles Times.
Iran: Battling for Hearts and Minds Through Media
October 5th, 2010 by Jason
In a new article in the Foreign Service Journal
, Robert McMahon explores the ongoing efforts of American broadcasters to reach Iranians, even as the regime expands pressure on independent media. Voice of America’s Persian News Network satellite TV station and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda–two broadcasters funded by Congress–have been expanding their reach into social media. “The regime denounces these media efforts as a ’soft war’ waged by outside forces and has responded by mounting one of the world’s most intense censorship efforts: jamming broadcasts, blocking Web sites and infiltrating Facebook accounts,” McMahon writes. The on going diplomatic standoff between Iran and the US makes the efforts of these broadcasters even more important according to McMahon.
While the utilization of social media is a key to connecting with the young people in a country where there are “tens of thousands” of active blogs, McMahon adds that new challenges are developing in that area: “Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes in the July edition of the Journal of Democracy of a growing competition worldwide between democrats and autocrats over mastery of what has been called ‘liberation technology.’” The Iranian government has adapted by setting up pro-regime blogs and disrupting websites that they feel challenge their authority, including the websites of two prominent clerics
VOA and RFE/RL also face challenges from policy makers in the US who are skeptical about their effectiveness, McMahon adds. The broadcasters, however, are constantly adapting to new technologies to amplify their message to the Iranian people. McMahon ends the article by providing several recommendations: “Keep a close eye on internal developments in Iran and in the region, and vet reports to keep news stories accurate, not inflammatory, […] (s)ustain efforts to overcome jamming of core radio and TV services,” and “(p)ursue a vigorous effort to gather more and better data about how Iranians are accessing information.”
POMED Notes: “Egypt at the Tipping Point?”
September 17th, 2010 by Anna
On Friday, David Ottaway gave a talk at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars titled “Egypt at the Tipping Point?” Ottaway – who is a senior scholar at the Wilson Center and the former Bureau Chief for the Washington Post in Cairo – discussed the findings from his recent paper, published in the Wilson Center Middle East Program’s Summer 2010 Occasional Paper Series. The talk was introduced and moderated by Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program.
(To read the full event summary, continue below. Or, click here to read the pdf
Posted in DC Event Notes
, Democracy Promotion
, Human Rights
, Islamist movements
, Middle Eastern Media
, Muslim Brotherhood
, Political Parties
, Public Opinion
, US foreign policy
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POMED Notes: “Peace Building in Dangerous Places”
September 14th, 2010 by Jason
The United States Institute of Peace held a panel discussion today that included four of its successful grantees. The event was moderated by Andrew Blum, a program officer at the Grant Program and opening remarks were given by Ambassador Richard H. Solomon, president of the USIP. The panelists for the event were Dr. Abdel-Mitaal Girshab, of the Institute for the Development of Civil Society in Sudan, Masood Karokhail of the Tribal Liaison Office in Afghanistan, Aari Mohammed of INSAN Iraqi Society, and Dr. Maria Emma Wills of the Historical Memory Commission in Colombia.
(For complete notes continue below the fold or click here
to read as a pdf.)
Yemen: U.S. Aiding “Downward Spiral” on Human Rights?
August 25th, 2010 by Jennifer
Amnesty International issued a statement today arguing that “the Yemeni authorities must stop sacrificing human rights in the name of security.” Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, commented that “an extremely worrying trend has developed where the Yemeni authorities, under pressure from the USA and others to fight al-Qa’ida, and Saudi Arabia to deal with the Huthis, have been citing national security as a pretext to deal with opposition and stifle all criticism.” The statement notes a pattern in Yemen of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, forced disappearances, and unfair trials of those accused of involvement in Al-Qaeda, Zaidi Shi’a rebels in the north, and Southern Movement activists. The Amnesty document also observes an uptick both in the use of the death penalty as punishment, as well as the use of the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) to try critical journalists and political activists. The statement concludes, “It is particularly worrying that states such as Saudi Arabia and the USA are directly or indirectly aiding the Yemeni government in a downward spiral away from previously improving human rights record.”
Iran: Infiltrating Schools With Clerics
July 12th, 2010 by Farid
In order to combat Western influence and political opposition, Iranian authorities have ordered to send 1,000 clerics into Tehran schools, according to Mohammad Boniadi, deputy director of Tehran’s education department. According to a piece in The Washington Post, these same measures were taken right after the 1979 revolution, when morality police were placed in schools to “promote the government ideology.” Seeking to enhance the government’s influence on the Internet, Fars News Agency has also reported that they will increase the number of pro-government blogs. Head of the Basij militia force, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, has also declared that the Basij will “increase its Internet capability threefold” by the Persian New Year, March 21. Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, former reformist member of the Iranian Parliament who is currently a visiting fellow at Stanford University, argued that despite the government’s attempts to enhance its epistemological influence over the youth, it will inherently fail. In spite of years of attempts to Islamize universities in Iran, last year’s uproar around campuses during and after the presidential elections showed that Iranian youths have already “developed their own political and cultural views,” which according to Khoini will be difficult to change. On the same note, the Hejab and Chastity Conference that has been announced in Iran, has gained significant critique from the rest of the world, since the government’s intentions are to ensure people’s adherence to Islamic dress code and to punish public socializing between opposite sexes while outside of marriage. According to a very interesting observation at Tehran Bureau, “While free expression within the rigid legal and cultural confines of the Islamic Republic has never been easy, enforcement of these draconian guidelines becomes ever more difficult as more and more Iranians adopt Western styles.”
POMED Rejects Distortion of Our Online Reporting
June 14th, 2010 by Farid
Recently, The Fars News Agency misrepresented one of POMED’s notes summarizing a public event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in which former Austrian Ambassador Michael Postl was misquoted (In Farsi) as saying that “The Austrian Ambassador Confesses that 22 European Embassies Were Spying…” Another news source, tabnak.com, published an article (In Farsi) on their website with the title “22 Embassies Spying in Tehran,” also referencing our notes.
In reality, POMED’s notes stated the following regarding Ambassador Postl’s remarks:
He then shifted to the role of the EU, which was represented by 22 embassies in Tehran out of 27 member states. In the weeks following the election, the EU had daily crisis meetings and called on Iran to investigate the results, allow unrestricted access to journalists, cease violent crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations, and guarantee the right of assembly. “We got a lot of information from twitter and also foreign embassies who had diplomats out on the street,” he recalled. “But we were also intimidated and asked by the Iranians formally to not go out and report, that this was an internal situation and there should be any interference by foreigners.”
The EU also held four rounds of dialogue, with a particular focus on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Since 2004, Postl said, the EU has worked for a diplomatic solution
to Iran’s nuclear program. But in order to understand Iranian foreign policy, “one has to understand Iran’s domestic political situation.”
It is clear that the reporting by Fars News Agency and by tabnak.com misrepresents Ambassador Postl’s remarks according to POMED’s summary of the event. Please click here for the full, original version of POMED’s notes.
POMED rejects and condemns any distortion of the content of POMED’s publications or online materials and urges the Fars News Agency and tabnak.com to engage in honest reporting that adheres to journalistic integrity.
Egypt: Emergency Laws Extended for Another Two Years Amid Temperate Protests
May 11th, 2010 by Chanan
Less than 12 hours after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif formally proposed extending the three decade old emergency law for another two years, Egypt’s parliament voted in favor of the measure by an overwhelming majority. The new law modifies elements of previous versions by abolishing powers, such as media censorship, property confiscation and telephone surveillance, originally given to the police. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moufid Shehab
told the Associated Press
that “for the first time” the government is limiting the law’s jurisdiction to issues of terrorism and narcotics. “This step,” said Prime Minister Nazif, “shows the world that we are a state that respects its commitments in the area of human rights, and respects the rights and freedoms of its citizens.”
Activists, such as Human Rights Watch’s Heba Morayef, find these statements puzzling if not whole inaccurate. “The government has stated repeatedly that it would limit the emergency law’s use to narcotics and terrorism. This isn’t a new position,” she said. Backers of potential presidential contender, Mohamed ElBaradei, agreed with Morayef’s assessment. “It’s just a new look for the old emergency law,” said George Ishak, a senior member of ElBaradei’s coalition, the National Assembly for Change (NAC). Prior to the government’s vote, a couple hundred protestors led by former presidential candidate Ayman Nour demonstrated in front of the parliament. Questioning the effectiveness of these, and other, protests by young Egyptian anti-government movements, Amro Hassan
of the Los Angeles Times argued that they lack the organization, experience and resolve necessary to mount forceful pressure on the Mubarak government. “It takes more than Twitter messages, leftist slogans and the indignant musings of bloggers to challenge a regime with a history of crushing dissent,” he wrote.
In related news, Tariq Alhomayed, editor of the Saudi-funded Asharq Al-Awsat, expressed concern that ElBaradei is casting too broad a coalition that might lead to his “drown(ing) in the corridors of Egyptian politics.” Citing the recent drama surrounding a potential mistranslation of a quote attributed to ElBaradei that suggested he persuaded the Muslim Brotherhood to “work for justice, democracy and a secular state, away from religious suppression of the public,” Alhomayed stressed that ElBaradei must make a decision about his constituency: “The question is does ElBaradei believe in a secular civil state that believes in everybody’s right to life, or is he accepting of a group that brought about injecting religion in politics and has its own goals and approach that are harmful to Egypt.”
In the meanwhile, ElBaradei’s coalition, the NAC, announced the formation of satellite offices throughout the United States in cities such as New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Michigan.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization