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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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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