In an unprecedented move, an Alexandria court sentenced Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman to 4 years‘ imprisonment, for using his blog to criticize Egypt’s top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university, and for insulting the country’s president Hosni Mubarak.
Abdel Kareem Soliman is the first blogger in Egpyt to be prosecuted, sending a spine tingling chill throughout the Egyptian blogosphere. It’s an unprecedent move that is threatening the internet, and blogs as a forum for social, political, and religious thoughts, and opinions in Egypt. The Internet, and blogs are a very important forum and crucially vital in a country where there is virtually no independent media.
Furthermore, as the BBC notes , “not only do Egptian blogs provide a platform for users to discuss political, social, and religious issues freely, but the ability to contribute anonymously is valued in a country where many people are afraid to express political dissent and where there is strong pressure to conform to social and religious norms.”
Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman’s imprisonment however, is sadly, but one more voice in the global cacophony of voices that has been silenced. Across the Middle East, as blogs have become increasingly popular as a window of free expression, Governments have responded by increasingly cracking down on them, and often, threatening, and jailing bloggers. A fellow Egyptian blogger who runs the blog “Rantings of a sand monkey” remarked “It’s a dangerous precedent because it will impact the only free speace available now, which is the internet.”
Personally, I am very saddened by this, as I passionately believe in the Internet and blogs as a wonderful global forum for free expression, discussion, information, and communication. And this is just another example of the Government’s intrusion and attempt to control and regulate cyberspace.
Rather than attempt to crack down on blogs and the internet, I wonder if maybe the Egyptian government might see the benefit of allowing them to flourish. Afterall, blogs can provide an interesting insight into the minds of a country’s citizenry, and what people are thinking about, or discussing. If the authorities listened, they would learn much.
As i sign off, I would like to send a message to my fellow bloggers and netizens in Egypt and the Middle East, Do Not Give Up! Do Not Despair, Keep doing what you are doing, but be safe. There are also many tools and ways to do that (be safe) such as blogging anonymously and using hacktivist tactics to do so. Feel free to email me for assistance, i will be more than glad to help out.