Remembering Egypt's Jailed Journalists on Tahrir Sq. Anniversary

On this, the fifth anniversary of the Tahrir Square demonstrations that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, it is worth noting that Egypt is now imprisoning more journalists than any other country except China. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt, now the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi continues to use the pretext of national security to clamp down on dissent. Cairo is holding 23 journalists in jail, compared with 12 a year ago. As recently as 2012, no journalists were in jail for their work in Egypt.

Back when the scent of freedom was still in the air, I was fortunate to teach an online course to journalists in Egypt and other Arab Spring countries about covering elections in a democracy. These journalists were so eager to be freed to do their job of informing the public! I was a little worried that the approach of non-partisan, even-handed coverage I proposed would go over poorly -- but that turned out not to be the case. It was an inspiring group of journalists.

In the online discussions we had as part of the course, some of the journalists asked me what to do in the event of a government crackdown. I was ill-prepared to answer these questions, accustomed as I am to operating under the protection of the First Amendment. They were asking me how much risk to take.

As it turned out, many Egyptian journalists have risked their livelihoods, their freedom and their well being. They deserve to be remembered.

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Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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