Media Freedom in Egypt

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Your Feb. 28 editorial "Blogger on Ice; Once again Egypt's Hosni Mubarak shows zero tolerance for a secular democratic dissenter," regarding the sentencing of Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim Soliman, provided a grossly misleading context to this incident.

First, contrary to your portrayal, freedom of speech is safeguarded in Egypt's constitution and its legal framework. However, it is not an absolute right. It is superseded by values that Egyptian society holds sacred, including the sanctity of religion -- not just Islam but all religions. A legal prohibition against defamation of religion is designed to prevent the bigotry and intolerance that Egyptian society does not accept.

Second, your suggestion that Mr. Soliman's case was politically motivated could not be further from the truth. His sentence was the result of an impartial judicial process with due process, including the right of appeal. The assertion that the judicial process is subject to political control reflects a lack of familiarity with Egyptian law, under which government decisions regularly are overturned.

But perhaps the greatest distortion is the implication that Mr. Soliman's case is but one example of the stifling of free speech in Egypt.

Criticism of the government, even the head of state, is now a staple diet of the media. The media sector -- both print and broadcasting -- has been liberalized to allow for greater independent ownership. Assertions that the government monopolizes the media cannot stand in the face of the expanding scope of freedom of expression in the print and broadcast media in Egypt.

KARIM HAGGAG

Press Attache

Embassy of Egypt

Washington


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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