Oppression in Egypt

An Egyptian blogger receives a four-year sentence in jail

An Egyptian blogger received a four year sentence this week for insulting Islam and his president. Many political bloggers are deeply concerned by this news of Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman’s imprisonment.

Reporters Without Borders, the press watchdog organisation, condemned the decision. They said: “Almost three years ago to the day, President Mubarak promised to abolish prison sentences for press offences.

"Suleiman’s conviction and sentence is a message of intimidation to the rest of the Egyptian blogosphere, which had emerged in recent years as an effective bulwark against the regime’s authoritarian excesses.”

Dalia Ziada, a blogger involved with the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, explained that Kareem’s conviction remains the first time an Egyptian blogger has been arrested for writing on his blog.

She said: "It sends a chilling message to bloggers of all persuasions in Egypt and across the Middle East. We are not free to express ourselves openly on our websites."

The latest on this came be found at this site campaigning for his release.

A New Egypt highlights the surprise of many who did not believe he would receive such a severe sentence.

Meanwhile back here in the UK, the announcement by Tony Blair this week that he is to withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq has unsurprisingly led many bloggers to dive to their keyboards. This was coupled with the news that Prince Harry will be deployed to the Gulf state. Septicisle said: “The whole media circus surrounding his trip to southern Basra is so insulting and demeaning for the average soldier. Their work has been almost taken for granted.”

Michael Meacher’s decision to stand against Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party prompted a torrent of responses on various blogs. Blairwatch said: "Meacher will bring attention to the alternative policies that are overlooked by the media and raise the profile of the left of the party, so in that respect Meacher's challenge is welcome news."

And the Environment Secretary David Miliband has come under fire this week from Labour
Humanist
who asked why Miliband has linked to a mere three Labour sites on his
blog
. He said: "David, this is a poor show." Perhaps Miliband likes to read Tory blogs a lot more than anything else.

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.