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
who asked why Miliband has linked to a mere three Labour sites on his
. 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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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood