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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The SNP thinks it knows how to kill hard Brexit

The Supreme Court ruled MPs must have a say in triggering Article 50. But the opposition must unite to succeed. 

For a few minutes on Tuesday morning, the crowd in the Supreme Court listened as the verdict was read out. Parliament must have the right to authorise the triggering of Article 50. The devolved nations would not get a veto. 

There was a moment of silence. And then the opponents of hard Brexit hit the phones. 

For the Scottish government, the pro-Remain members of the Welsh Assembly and Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, the victory was bittersweet. 

The ruling prompted Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to ask: “Is it better that we take our future into our own hands?”

Ever the pragmatist, though, Sturgeon has simultaneously released her Westminster attack dogs. 

Within minutes of the ruling, the SNP had vowed to put forward 50 amendments (see what they did there) to UK government legislation before Article 50 is enacted. 

This includes the demand for a Brexit white paper – shared by MPs from all parties – to a clause designed to prevent the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation rules if a deal is not agreed. 

But with Labour planning to approve the triggering of Article 50, can the SNP cause havoc with the government’s plans, or will it simply be a chorus of disapproval in the rest of Parliament’s ear?

The SNP can expect some support. Individual SNP MPs have already successfully worked with Labour MPs on issues such as benefit cuts. Pro-Remain Labour backbenchers opposed to Article 50 will not rule out “holding hands with the devil to cross the bridge”, as one insider put it. The sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, will consider backing SNP amendments she agrees with as well as tabling her own. 

But meanwhile, other opposition parties are seeking their own amendments. Jeremy Corbyn said Labour will seek amendments to stop the Conservatives turning the UK “into a bargain basement tax haven” and is demanding tariff-free access to the EU. 

Separately, the Liberal Democrats are seeking three main amendments – single market membership, rights for EU nationals and a referendum on the deal, which is a “red line”.

Meanwhile, pro-Remain Tory backbenchers are watching their leadership closely to decide how far to stray from the party line. 

But if the Article 50 ruling has woken Parliament up, the initial reaction has been chaotic rather than collaborative. Despite the Lib Dems’ position as the most UK-wide anti-Brexit voice, neither the SNP nor Labour managed to co-ordinate with them. 

Indeed, the Lib Dems look set to vote against Labour’s tariff-free amendment on the grounds it is not good enough, while expecting Labour to vote against their demand of membership of the single market. 

The question for all opposition parties is whether they can find enough amendments to agree on to force the government onto the defensive. Otherwise, this defeat for the government is hardly a defeat at all. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.