Sunday, March 31, 2013

TV comedian issued arrest warrant for insulting president

Al Arabiya

Egypt’s Public prosecutor has ordered the immediate arrest of popular TV host Bassem Youssef on Saturday, calling for him to be brought in for alleged insults he made about Islam and the Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, state news agency reported.

Youssef, the host of Al-Barnameg or the Program in English has been dubbed the Egyptian Jon Stewart, used his personal Twitter account to confirm the order for his arrest.

“The warrant and order to arrest me is true,” Youssef tweeted Saturday afternoon. “I will go tomorrow to the Attorney General’s office, but if you prefer to send a box to deliver me in today it will save me money on transportation.”

Minutes following his tweet, Youssef’s fans filed out comments expressing their sadness, support, and disappointment at the Egyptian government’s behavior.

One follower @sanfoora wrote “Please be careful, please don’t go”. Other tweeps criticized him for his performance on Friday’s night’s episode. @AmrEzzat tweeted “You shouldn’t have pushed the envelope too far during your latest appearance.”

Youssef’s latest Tweet encouraged the public to “unfollow” Mursi on his Twitter account as an act of revenge over the president’s “sever assault against freedom”. “This way I will be outnumbering him with my follower… what an earthshaking comeback.”

During Friday’s show, Youssef mocked Mursi’s speech on state television, which he made after the attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters earlier this week. Youssef replayed the recorded speech and added some of his ‘humorous special effects’ by implementing graphics of a magic stick, lightening stocks, and sparks of fire at every hand gesture Mursi made during his address to the nation.

Youssef’s Twitter followers have said that he ‘pushed the buttons’ too far.

“Ever since the president came to power, he held the heads of all Egyptians high making us all proud,” Youssef said during his episode followed by a large crowd of laughter.

Youssef said his work is not aimed at Islamists, but instead on government officials who are ruling the country and making decisions.

Previously, Youssef poked fun at those in power along with Mursi's temporary adoption of extensive powers back in November and December 2012.

Youssef is not only known amongst Egyptians, his work has reached other nations and has been picked up by renowned comedic figures, like America’s Jon Stewart himself and a Syrian revolution artist Asalah al-Nasri.

“He highlights critical topics and presents his material in a sharp comedic way,” al-Nasri told Al Arabiya. “I love how daring he is and how he treats different issues.”

Amr Katamesh, an Egyptian actor and standup political comedian known for using poetry to deliver his message, told Al Arabiya that he follows Youssef very carefully and enjoys watching his program.

“Although we have different styles in performing comedy, but I appreciate Mr. Youssef’s bravery and style when delivering his messages,” Katamesh added.

Youssef is known to have embroiled high-profile media personalities in the country trading fierce retorts and warnings of legal action against the host.

Previously a heart surgeon, the doctor-cum-comedian presents his parody show on the privately-owned "CBC" Egyptian satellite channel every Friday.

*Photo courtesy of Atlantic Council

Egypt: Crackdown against media reaches new lows

Committee to Protect Journalists

In Egypt, crackdown against media reaches new lows

March 28, 2013

Sherif Mansour

The government of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi continues to escalate its offensive against journalists. Details of the most recent case, in which an arrest warrant was issued for blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah for inciting "aggression" against members of the Muslim Brotherhood, show how low the government is willing to go in order to silence its critics.

Abdel Fattah went voluntarily Tuesday to the office of Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah after hearing about the warrant against him in the media. What followed was a mockery. According to his testimony, the questions he received were all about comments by others posted on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, not about things he said or did.

There was no evidence, witnesses, or even a sign of prior investigation by police. Their focus was on a Twitter mention of his user name by another Twitterer, going by the handle Princess Joumana. The naïve members of the Muslim Brotherhood who filed the complaint against Abdel Fattah apparently thought the interaction on social media was a conspiracy involving a real princess--possibly from a hostile government such as that of the United Arab Emirates, where Brotherhood members are being put on trial.

Furthermore, according to Abdel Fattah, there was never a need to issue an arrest warrant, since he was never asked, and never declined, to appear in front of the authorities for investigation. Even more astonishing, the arrest order came only three days after the complaints were presented to the Prosecutor General, while many other complaints and requests for investigation--including into attacks by members of the Muslim Brotherhood--have not been carried out.

Why the rush to investigate a Twitter mention while turning a blind eye to assaults and other human rights violations by Muslim Brothers and Egyptian police which have been documented and shown on TV?

The answer is clear. When your adversary is also the judge, a Twitter mention can become evidence. In his testimony, Abdel Fattah said he denounced the investigation and sought an independent judge to run it instead of the prosecutor general.

The latter, in Abdel Fattah's view, is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, who initiated the complaint against him. Abdullah was appointed by Morsi in November in a power grab that resulted in a series of protests by the opposition and strikes within the judiciary.

Today, in fact, Egypt's Court of Appeals ruled that Morsi's sacking of Abdullah's predecessor was illegal and void, according to news reports, and the Egyptian Syndicate for Journalists announced that it would not cooperate with him.

Abdel Fattah is a well-known blogger who also refused to cooperate with a military court investigation against him last year for criticism of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which released him.

On Tuesday, hundreds of his friends, supporters, and volunteer lawyers accompanied him to the prosecutor general's office. The show of support forced prosecutors, once again, to release him without bail--but what happens to others in the Egyptian media who do not have his profile and support?

There are reports that the investigation against Abdel Fattah is one of dozens, and that other journalists critical of the Muslim Brotherhood will be next. Today, government newspaper Al-Ahram reported that Lamees al-Hadidy, Amro Adeeb, and Youssef al-Husseiny, who host three of the top talk shows on CBC, OnTV, and Orbit private TV channels, respectively, will be investigated for "violating journalist's ethics in order to incite sedition and chaos and threatening national peace."

Those in media are already coming under pressure from inflammatory, anti-press comments by Morsi and members of the Brotherhood, and now they can witness how the law is being abused and the justice system bent backwards in order to silence them.

As troubling as this is, it's perhaps more troubling that young activists who use social media to disseminate information and news about the Muslim Brotherhood are taking a direct hit. The government, in order to continue investigations and produce evidence, has decided to launch an Internet monitoring operation by those police who usually patrol the Internet for fraud and other online crimes.

There is a fear that this will be used to track activist down and violate their privacy. Today, local news reported that Essam Mohamed, a Facebook activist who runs an anti-Muslim Brotherhood page under a fake name, was arrested without charge in the industrial city of Mahalaa on a complaint to the public prosecutor that he, like Abdel Fattah, incited "aggression" against members of the Brotherhood.

*Photo by Mostafa Darwish, courtesy of the Associated Press

Over 4,500 factory closures since revolution, hundreds of thousands laid-off

Tue, 26/03/2013

Jano Charbel

Time and time again, officials have accused ongoing protests, workers’ strikes and labor action of halting the so-called wheel of production. The counter argument has also been reiterated, attributing the ailing economy to the government’s myriad bad decisions and their mismanaged implementation.

Production implies industry, and industry refers to the thousands of factories in Egypt, all of which have suffered in one way or another as a result of an economic slowdown, a mounting funding crisis on the national level, diminished foreign reserves and feeble capital inflows.

The dynamic only exacerbates already existing problems in the country’s industrial sector, incurring further discontent among workers. These sector-specific troubles are reflective of, and further compounded by, broader economic turmoil.

Since the January 2011 uprising, at least 4,500 factories have been shut down, with hundreds of thousands of workers laid off, according to a study conducted by a labor rights group in February.
As Egypt’s dire economic conditions worsen, further closures and layoffs are expected.

The study by the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, or CTUWS, an independent NGO, was conducted in 74 industrial zones across the country. In terms of the effect on joblessness, the findings appear to correspond with official statistics compiled by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

The agency’s statistics indicate that Egypt’s unemployment rate has risen to a record 13 percent, roughly 3.5 million people from a total workforce of some 27 million.

Adel Zakariya of CTUWS says hundreds of thousands of workers have been rendered jobless since the onset of the revolution. While an exact number is tough to determine, he says the mass of layoffs is “unprecedented.”

“The exact number of sacked workers is difficult to gauge at any given point of time. For example, we find that sacked workers from a certain food-processing company may relocate to another such company within the same industrial zone in which they worked,” he says. “A lack of employment contracts and masked or seasonal unemployment make it nearly impossible to assess the exact numbers of unemployed workers.”

More closures, not less

Nearly all factories that have been shut down since the revolution are private-sector companies, Zakariya says. “We’ve witnessed partial company closures, including the closures of some factories and production lines within these companies, along with total company closures.”

While he recognizes that there were hundreds of factory closures during former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, the “rate has increased exponentially since the revolution.”

The 4,500 factory closures cited in the study is not comprehensive; it is a result of the number of factories surveyed in industrial zones that the CTUWS has been monitoring. The actual sum, Zakariya predicts, is likely significantly higher.

“Numerous different industries have been hit by these closures. Perhaps the hardest-hit industry is textiles,” he says, though “the textile industry has been in a steady state of decline since Mubarak.”

A combination of mismanagement, corruption and indebtedness of public-sector textile companies led to broad privatization measures in the early 1990s. Dozens of these companies slashed the workforce they inherited from the public sector, and, after their privatization, appear to have been similarly mismanaged.

The Cairo Administrative Court nullified some privatization contracts over the past two years, leaving companies such as Indorama Shebin Textile, Nile Cotton Ginning, and Tanta Flax and Oils in limbo, as the state has declined to re-nationalize them.

The steady decline of Egypt’s cotton industry also prompted the import of lower-grade cotton, leading to a deterioration in the quality of domestically manufactured textiles. In turn, hundreds of thousands of textile workers have been rendered jobless, while more recent economic factors threaten to further increase unemployment rates.

The textile industry has suffered most in the private-sector industrial zones of Sadat City and 10th of Ramadan City, while metallurgical industries have been impacted most in Obour City.

Financial obstacles

The surge in the number of factory closures is attributed to factors that have impinged on the economy at large. Zakariya cites “difficulties in procuring financing and bank loans, which have in turn negatively affected production and exports, along with some capital flight from Egypt amid the climate of political instability in the country since the revolution.”

Industry insiders and bankers have cited a shortage of dollars with a depreciating pound and scarce foreign reserves as reasons for the banking sector’s increasing hesitancy in providing funding and lines of credit. This affects the ability of ailing companies and factories to obtain rescue loans or financial support, and also stymies the import-export flow of goods.

Zakariya admits that financial problems may be compounded by workers’ strikes and industrial actions. “But although strikes do negatively affect production, these industrial actions are at the bottom of the list of factors leading to factory closures,” he says.

A statement issued last month by Finance Minister Morsy Hegazy said Egypt incurs losses of about LE100 million per day due to labor strikes and political unrest.

One private-sector company with a number of factories blames industrial action for its problems, and last month its owner took drastic measures to make his point heard.

Farag Amer, chairman of the Faragello Food Industries Company board of directors, wrote a widely circulated statement in late February accusing President Mohamed Morsy’s regime of failing to respond to what he called “blackmail and the moral deviance” of workers, who launched “unwarranted strikes in contravention to the provisions of law.”

On 20 February, Amer imposed a lockout, and shut down his factories across the country following industrial action by workers in Alexandria.

The Faragello administrative board ordered the sacking of 27 striking workers, including 17 union leaders, according to workers and independent union organizers.

A senior administrator from the Faragello company, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells Egypt Independent, “We’re back to operations as usual. All our companies and factories across the country have returned to work.

“We had shut down operations for only a few days in light of the illogical demands raised by newly employed workers, calling for unrealistic bonuses and pay raises,” he says, but did not comment on the dismissal of unionists and striking workers from the company.

But Zakariya says political as well as financial factors motivated the temporary closure. While it’s not clear what the company owners’ affiliations are, they appear to be seeking Morsy’s intervention in dealing with striking workers and independent unionism in their company.

“Faragello’s administration is involved in a game of political maneuvers with the new regime ... playing its political pressure cards with the regime, because they want to eliminate strikes and independent labor unions,” he claims.

The Faragello administrator went on to say, “We demand security and stability for our industries, and for the country as a whole.”

However, he adds, the company may deal with problems such as lack of diesel and fuel to power the factories in the future.

Egypt’s diesel crisis has extended far beyond affecting drivers and causing winding traffic jams around gas stations. It is now halting work at some factories, disrupting transportation of school buses and, more critically, failing to meet the needs of power plants as the heavy energy-consuming summer months approach.

“Given the national outlook for diesel and fuel shortages, along with associated electricity blackouts, we are expecting additional factory closures and even more layoffs. Whether these closures will be permanent or temporary, partial or complete, we’ll have to wait and see,” Zakariya says.

Factories in Sadat City and 10th of Ramdan are edging closer toward possible closures due to the diesel crisis, he adds.

Government response

Government officials have attempted to address the numerous factory closures, while simultaneously proposing plans to create thousands of new jobs. On 6 March, the Cabinet claimed the government helped secure 522,000 job opportunities, including 345,000 locally and 177,000 for Egyptians abroad.

In a televised interview 25 February, Morsy said 119 new factories commenced operations in Egypt that month, with about 300 more factories in the pipeline. The Finance, Manpower, Investment and Youth ministries proposed an ambitious plan to jointly create 700,000 new jobs this year.

However, union organizer Tallal Shokr, board member of the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress, is skeptical of these grand proclamations.

“The government claims that it has secured hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for Egyptians, and claims that it will create hundreds of thousands more — these are baseless claims, merely for media consumption,” Shokr says. “The reality is that unemployment has reached a record high, and new job opportunities are not being provided, at least not on the scale that the government is claiming.”

He cited as further setbacks the state’s move toward cutting public spending in an attempt to rein in the widening deficit, as well as plans to curb subsidies and a number of expected measures associated with the US$4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan being negotiated.

“In light of current economic conditions, the government will not be able to provide the 700,000 new jobs that it speaks of. The best it can do is to provide contracts for those who are already employed and claim that they have created all these new jobs,” he adds.

*This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.
**Photo courtesy of Al-Masry Al-Youm

Egyptian doctors' association in Saudi officially recognized

 Mon, 25/03/2013
Jano Charbel

The Association of Egyptian Doctors in Riyadh (AEDR) was officially established on 21 March 2013, making it the first such entity to service tens of thousands of Egyptian doctors in Saudi Arabia’s nearly non-existent civil society.

The origins of this association date back to 2005. Yet since its initial foundation, and even before, tens of Egyptian doctors are reported to have been imprisoned — often without clear charges — and have reportedly been abused in detention.

Furthermore, Egyptian doctors employed in Saudi Arabia have reported a number of other grievances associated with contractual, legal and financial violations.

Established under the aegis of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Doctors Syndicate, the AEDR is not itself a professional syndicate, as no syndicates or labor unions exist in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The basic framework for the AEDR was established in the presence of 65 doctors at the Egyptian Consulate in Riyadh on 30 December 2005. The association was officially inaugurated on Thursday, and its first general assembly conference was held at a five-star hotel the following day.

According to the AEDR's Facebook page, the association currently has a registered membership of over 1,000 Egyptian doctors in Saudi Arabia. 

Its aims include promoting the professional standards of physicians; increasing coordination between Egyptian doctors and consular staff in Riyadh; improving communications between the association and the Doctors Syndicate in Egypt; assistance in resolving doctors’ professional problems; assisting members in finding job opportunities; organizing social and recreational activities, and organizing programs for doctors’ children.

“This association is meant to protect the rights and freedoms of all Egyptian doctors working in Saudi Arabia,” says Dr. Khairy Abdel-Dayyem, chairman of the Doctors Syndicate and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the more important objectives is to provide up-to-date medical training programs and seminars for its members, he adds.

Abdel-Dayyem says that an estimated 50,000 Egyptian doctors work in the Gulf,  mostly concentrated in Saudi Arabia. He could not provide exact figures of Egyptian doctors in Riyadh or Saudi Arabia as a whole, however.

Dr. Amr al-Shoura, media coordinator for Doctors Without Rights — an Egyptian protest movement — explained that while the AEDR is the first such entity to be established in the Gulf, there are similar associations for Egyptian doctors in Paris, London and Tripoli.

Egyptian doctors have a sour history in Saudi Arabia, experiencing unwarranted arrests, imprisonment, lack of due-process, physical abuse, corporal punishment and even torture. These grievances have led several Egyptian doctors to embark on hunger strikes in prisons and jails across the kingdom in the past.

Both Shoura and Abdel-Dayyem agree another chief problem facing Egyptian doctors in Saudi Arabia, and in Arab Gulf countries in general, is the kafeel (a sponsorship system of employment), whereby every foreign employee is strictly supervised by a native sponsor and cannot travel domestically or abroad without their consent.

The Doctors Syndicate in Egypt recently released a report indicating that the last five imprisoned Egyptian doctors were released from detention in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

The syndicate, which is dominated by members of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, has issued statements indicating that these “wrongfully imprisoned doctors” were released in light of a royal amnesty, which was issued after President Mohamed Morsy recently visited the kingdom.

While there, Morsy reportedly presented Saudi authorities with a list of these “wrongfully detained” Egyptian physicians, some of whom had been languishing for years in prison without due process.

These exculpations have also been attributed to pressure applied by members of the Doctors Syndicate who staged numerous protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Giza.

Commenting on the arrests of Egyptian doctors, along with other professionals allegedly affiliated with the Brotherhood in December 2012, Shoura went on to add that “there was a swift and immediate response from the syndicate when it discovered that the detained Egyptian doctors in the United Arab Emirates were Brotherhood members."

"The speed and effort exerted to campaign for the release of these imprisoned Brotherhood doctors in the Emirates was unprecedented," he says.

Shoura argues this is a result of the so-called "Brotherhoodization" of the syndicate, which effectively caters to the Brotherhood-dominated board's s demands and ignores other more universal demands, such as an increase in the national health budget.

Abdel-Dayyem insists that “the Association of Egyptian Doctors in Riyadh, like the Doctors’ Syndicate, is a non-partisan and non-politicized professional association which works for the interests of all its members, regardless of their affiliations.” 

Abdel-Dayyem declined to mention whether this association was appointed or elected.

However, Shoura stresses, “We have few details and little understanding about the Association of Egyptian Doctors in Riyadh. This is because the Brotherhood, with their near monopoly in the syndicate, has kept others in the dark regarding information relating to the establishment of such overseas organizations.” 

 “The Brotherhood refuses to establish any such association if it isn't under their direct control. This has paved the way for the further politicization of associations abroad," Shoura stresses.

Repeated attempts to contact members of the AEDR have proven unsuccessful.

*Photo by Namir Galal

CPJ condemns Islamists' siege of Media Production City

Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ condemns siege at Cairo's Media Production City

March 25, 2013

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the violent siege on Sunday of the Media Production City, a complex housing numerous private news outlets in Cairo, an episode that followed a series of inflammatory anti-press comments by President Mohamed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"President Morsi's escalated rhetoric against the critical press is deeply troubling," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa coordinator. "The president is not meeting his responsibility to set a tone of tolerance and respect for viewpoints that differ from his own and those of the Muslim Brotherhood."

An escalation in anti-press rhetoric by the president followed a week of violent protests outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo that reached a high point on Friday. In a speech Sunday, Morsi accused owners of private news outlets of criticizing and insulting him, and said the media had incited violence by covering only the attacks on protesters--and not those on Muslim Brotherhood members, news reports said.

Echoing those remarks, the Muslim Brotherhood used social networking sites to call for a siege on Sunday of the Media Production City in Cairo. A Facebook group, called "We are the Muslim Brotherhood youth, learn about us," encouraged protesters to besiege the studios of five private satellite channels--Al-Hayat, ONTV, Al-Nahar, Al-Qahira wal Nas, and CBC--located inside the Media Production City. The outlets are known for criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood group.

On Thursday, the National Security Committee--a part of the Egyptian upper house of parliament--accused the private media of biased coverage and said that the government should censor private outlets, according to news reports. An official in the meeting, Essam al-Erian, a Muslim Brotherhood majority leader, also threatened an Al-Watan correspondent, saying he had "surprises for them ... that would make everyone in the media know their limits," the paper reported.

On Sunday, members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood surrounded the Media Production City, closing the gates and refusing entrance to journalists and guests. Protesters assaulted journalists to prevent them from filming, and chanted threatening slogans to journalists inside the city, saying they would be slaughtered for their insults to Morsi, according to news reports.

Hussein Abdel Ghany, a prominent news host and a former correspondent of Al-Jazeera in Egypt, told CPJ that he was attacked by 10 individuals outside the city and the windshield of his car broken. He said protesters attempted to take him out of his car and beat him, but that his driver prevented the attack.

Reham al-Sahli, a host of the talk show "90 Minutes" was attacked and her car damaged in the protests, according to news reports. Diaa Rashwan, head of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, was prevented from entering Media Production City, reports said.

A journalist at Al-Ahram Weekly, Khaled Dawoud, told CPJ he had received death threats as a result of his writings and his role as a media spokesman for the National Salvation Front, an opposition organization that includes liberal and leftist parties. Muslim Brotherhood supporters claim that the organization provides a "political cover" for the violent protests against them.

"Authorities are prosecuting critics while ignoring numerous attacks against journalists last week alone," said Mansour. "The attacks that took place at the gates of Media Production City demand immediate judicial intervention."

Today, Egypt Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah ordered the arrests of five activists and journalists after Muslim Brotherhood members accused them of inciting violence following Morsi's speech, according to news reports. The prosecutor also imposed a travel ban on them. The list includes Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent blogger who was accused and fined last year for "insulting the military," according to news reports.

Abdel Fattah vowed on his Facebook account to appear in front of the prosecutor tomorrow to challenge the "fabricated charges" against him, while others, including columnist and activist Hazim Abdel Azim, decided to ignore what they considered an "illegitimate" arrest warrant, according to news reports.

Abdullah was appointed by Morsi last November in a move that resulted in series of protests from the opposition and strikes within the judiciary. He has referred dozens of journalists and media professionals in the past few months for investigation by public prosecutors because of accusations of criminal defamation of President Morsi.

Islamist protesters assault journalists outside Media Production City

Egypt Independent
Protesters, security clash at Media Production City 

Sun, 24/03/2013

Clashes broke out Sunday evening at Media Production City between protesters and security forces after demonstrators had earlier responded to calls to storm certain TV channel studios in the city. Demonstrators prevented cameramen from reporting on the clashes.

Dozens of protesters supporting President Mohamed Morsy had rallied in front of Media Production City and tried to storm Gate 4. Police created a security cordon behind the gate inside the city to stop the demonstrators.

Protesters chanted slogans against media personalities as they tried to break in, while wearing green headbands with “There is no god but Allah” written on them, and raised flags with the same slogan. They also raised flags of the Raya Party, led by Salafi leader Hazem Salah Abu Ismail.

The protesters had responded to Islamist activists’ calls to besiege the studios of five privately owned satellite channels — Al-Hayat, ONtv, Al-Nahar, Al-Qahira wal Nas and CBC.

Some members of Umatana, an independent Islamist movement, who participated in the demonstration assaulted video journalists from satellite channels in an attempt to prevent them from filming as they tried to storm the city gate.

A group of protesters tried to prevent others from storming the gate, but they insisted on entering the city to try and reach satellite channels’ studios.

Demonstrators painted graffiti on the ground in front of Media Production City Gate 4, condemning those who still believe the media.

Security forces had intensified their presence Sunday morning in front of Media Production City to deal with potential violence and to protect workers in the city, after Islamist activists’ threats to storm it.

More than 15 ambulances were deployed to the area in case clashes erupted.

On Saturday, Muslim Brotherhood Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein said that the group will not take part in the protests in the Media Production City.

Morsy accused private media Sunday of inciting violence. Without giving names, he said owners of private satellite channels who have problems with the state, such as not paying taxes, use media host to criticize and insult him.

This is the second time Islamists have protested in front of Media Production City, a vast complex containing high-tech studios and open-air filming areas located outside Cairo.

In December, various Salafi movements organized one-week sit-in in front of the city under the title of “Sharia First,” to demand the dismissal of talk show hosts they considered “tools for burning the country.”

Islamists have recently lambasted private media that have been very critical of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamists say some channels — such as Dream TV, owned by businessman Ahmed Bahgat;  ONtv, which was owned by businessman Naguib Sawiris; and CBC, which is owned by businessman Mohamed al-Amin — are tools for the counter-revolution.

*Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Morsi threatens more crackdowns against opposition

Video: Brotherhood tortures people in Bilal Mosque

190+ injured in clashes at Brotherhood offices across Egypt

Xinhua News
190 injured as protesters attack MB headquarters in Egypt

March 22, 2013

CAIRO,  (Xinhua) -- At least 190 people were injured as bloody clashes erupted Friday between Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) supporters and opponents near the group's headquarters in the Egyptian capital of Cairo and other governorates across Egypt, a medical official source told Xinhua.

Mohamed Sultan, head of Egypt's Ambulance Authority, told Xinhua that "some 127 were injured near the MB headquarters in Moqattam, Cairo, and were taken to nearby hospitals, while 59 were treated on the spot," noting the other four were injured in similar clashes in Gharbiya and Sharqiya governorates.

"The injuries varied between wounds and bruises and there were no injuries from gunshots," Sultan reaffirmed.

However, some local websites said one was killed late night during the clashes but it has not yet been confirmed by official sources.

In Cairo, a number of anti-MB rallies headed to the group's headquarters in Moqattam district and some of the protesters set fire to four buses belonging to MB members who came to the area to protect the building.

Security and armored vehicles were deployed around the headquarters and there were a dozen of ambulances deployed in the streets while a state of turmoil overwhelmed the area.

"Two lines of security forces separated the MB supporters who gathered outside the group's headquarters and the protesters who threw stones at the security," an eyewitness told Xinhua.

The eyewitness added that some of the protesters launched Molotov cocktails and fireworks while some others set fire to tyres in the nearby streets until the police used teargas bombs to disperse them.

"Sound of gunfire was heard but the source and type are unknown, " the witness said, noting clashes were still going on.

Some protesters besieged a number of MB supporters inside Al- Taqwa mosque near Al-Nafoura Square in Moqattam, claiming they had weapons and tear gas bombs inside according to one of the protesters.

Another eyewitness said the protesters formed monitoring committees in the entrances of the Moqattam district to prevent any of the MB members to get into the district, which stirred quarrels and clashes between the protesters and some MB members.

Meanwhile, in Manial district of Giza, some anti-MB protesters broke into the headquarters of the group's political arm Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), according to state-run Al-Ahram Online news website.

The ground floor of the FJP headquarters was totally smashed including the offices and the furniture, while some demonstrators attempted to set fire to the place until others prevented them.

Similarly, in Gharbiya governorate's largest city of Mahalla, anti-MB protesters sit fire to the MB headquarters turning all contents into ashes but no casualties were reported.

In Alexandria, protesters also set fire to the FJP headquarters in Fleming and Mostafa Kamel neighborhoods.

Over 20 political parties and movements, mostly liberals, including Al-Dostour Party and Free Egyptians Party, in addition to some 30 public figures, have called for staging a rally dubbed "Friday of restoring dignity" on Friday outside the MB headquarters.

Anti-MB protesters across the country have been demanding holding presidential election in September under full international supervision, sacking the current government and prosecutor-general, and drafting a new constitution to replace the newly-drafted "Islamist-dominated" one.

Brotherhood defends "right" to assault journalists, refuses to issue apology

 Thu, 21/03/2013

The Muslim Brotherhood said Thursday that it has the right to defend its headquarters in Moqattam against attacks by protesters opposed to its group.
At a press conference held at the Grand Nile Tower hotel on the Nile Corniche in Garden City, the Brotherhood's Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein said, "We do not start fights but we will not allow anyone to attack our headquarters."
Hussein said the protesters that descended on the Brotherhood headquarters Saturday deliberately provoked and insulted youth members protecting the building. He added that the protesters had carried knives, sticks and Molotov cocktails. "We will hold those who committed violations accountable," he said.
Hussein also refused to apologize for the clashes, despite the fact that several protesters and journalists were injured.
"Why apologise?” he asked. "There is a group that attacked the Brotherhood headquarters and another that was covering the events. To the first group, we owe no apology. If investigations, judicial or internal, prove we have wronged the second group, we will apologize — so far it has not been proven who sparked the clashes."
Proceedings at the conference were interrupted by a heated argument between Brotherhood leaders and some reporters. The journalists accused the Brotherhood of bias for only showing footage of one of its members being attacked.
The reporters said it was unfair not to show other video, including widely circulated footage of alleged Brotherhood members slapping female protesters as well as shots of Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater’s personal guard beating reporters.
Journalists began chanting  "Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide" and called for the screening of other videos showing reporters being assaulted at the hands of Brotherhood members.
Earlier Hussein had accused media of "neglecting the fact that it was [reporters and protesters] who came to Moqattam, insulted and provoked [members of the Brotherhood] and then attacked the headquarters and the police with bombs, Molotovs cocktails and birdshot.
"Nevertheless, we pledge to investigate and if we find the building guards committed violations, we will hold them responsible."
The leader condemned calls for a new protest at the headquarters Friday, saying, "Now they are calling for people to go to the headquarters on Friday to continue their assault."
Hussein said the police are responsible for protecting the Brotherhood headquarters, but said the group would step in if security forces failed in their task.
Ahmed Aref, the group's spokesperson took a less provocative tone and said, "I respect reporters and I admit that those I have dealt with are well-mannered and serious in their coverage of the group's news.
"We are not enemies of the profession or professional reporters... the Brotherhood does not accept insult to any reporter... If there were violations or insults during the clashes, the matter is now in the hands of the judiciary."
*Edited translation from MENA

Brotherhood members assault at least 14 journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalists attacked in Egypt over the weekend

March 19, 2013

At least 14 journalists were attacked by police and supporters of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood group outside the group's headquarters in Cairo on Saturday and Sunday, according to news reports and local journalists.

"The attackers want to prevent the public from getting a full picture of the country's political discontent by trying to silence the journalists witnessing these protests," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. "We call on the Egyptian authorities to fully investigate these deplorable assaults and hold everyone, including police officers, accountable under the law."

Members and supporters of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood group clashed with activists attempting to spray anti-party graffiti outside the group headquarters on Saturday, according to news reports. The members threatened several journalists covering the rally, saying they would break their equipment if they did not leave, according to witnesses and local journalists who spoke to CPJ.

At least eight journalists were attacked by members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood that day. Sky News correspondent Rofida Atef told CPJ that four journalists in her crew were attacked and their camera destroyed.

Mohammad Nabil, a photographer for Al-Watan newspaper, told CPJ his right leg was broken in another attack and that Al-Watan photographer, Amr Hafez Diab, was wounded in his hand.  

Russia Today photographer Mukhtar Ahmed said he was beaten in the head by 10 individuals with sticks. Al-Masry al-Youm journalist Mohammed Talaat told CPJ that at least five people beat him, but that he managed to escape when one attacker tried to stab him.

After photographs of the attacks emerged in the local media Saturday night, Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, released a statement that said the journalists had provoked group members and that the members were defending their property from attacks.

Early Sunday, the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate filed an official complaint with the Prosecutor General, who opened an investigation into the attacks and summoned for questioning three bodyguards of Khairat el-Shater, a senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood group, news reports said.

Protesters gathered outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters on Sunday, demonstrating against the attacks on journalists and activists the day before. Police assaulted at least six journalists covering the clashes, news reports.  

Al-Youm al-Saba'a journalist Mohammed Ismail told his newspaper that riot police beat and temporarily detained him. Al-Watan editor Ahmed Ghoneim accused the police of firing rubber bullets at him and beating him when he ran away.

He said he injured his right foot. News accounts reported that Amr Arafa of Veto online newspaper, and Al-Youm al-Saba'a journalists Mohamed Haggag, Maher Malak, and Mahmoud Hifnawy were also attacked, but did not offer further details.

Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, a lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood, told CPJ today that the group does not use violence as a tactic, and that in this case the media had conducted a smear campaign against them. He said Muslim Brotherhood officials would be conducting an internal investigation into the accusations against its members and that the results would be announced publicly.

Local journalists protested in front of the Egyptian Parliament today against increased attacks against them by supporters of the Egyptian government, news reports said.

*Photo of injured and bleeding RT cameraman, courtesy of RT & Alikhbaria Syria TV

Dictator Morsi praises police for killing civilians

Associated Press
Egypt's president praises police despite criticism

Sunday, March 17, 2013

AP - CAIRO: President Mohammed Morsi addressed riot police at one of their camps near Cairo before joining them in weekly Friday prayers in a show of solidarity with the force.

The riot police, known as Central Security, have been at the forefront of deadly clashes with protesters the past two years since the 18-day uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Hundreds of protesters have been killed over that period, and rights groups accuse the police of using snipers and lethal force. Policemen also have been killed and have suffered serious injuries.

Over the past weeks, thousands of officers and low-ranking policemen staged protests outside police stations and refused to work. Some accuse the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, of trying to control the force. 

The Brotherhood denies the claims. Others demand higher wages, better working conditions, greater firepower and stronger immunity from prosecution for carrying out their duties. Many are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, head of the security forces.

With the interior minister and riot police commander standing beside him, Morsi praised the police for keeping security.

"This country loves you, hugs you and protects you, and always expects from you courage and sacrifice," he said.

He seemed to laud them for a role in the uprising against Mubarak, which began on Jan. 25, 2011 — and which the police tried to crush. A government report obtained this week by The Associated Press concluded that police were behind the deaths of nearly 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising.

The police "were at the heart" of Jan. 25 revolution, Morsi said in his speech, after praising them for being "at the heart" of earlier Egyptian victories.

"Almighty God willed that Jan. 25 also be Police Day, a day of remembering the sacrifices of the police."

The 2011 revolution was sparked in large part by outrage over abuses and torture by the police, which under Mubarak targeted opponents including the Muslim Brotherhood. 
The uprising began when anti-torture activists called an anti-police protest coinciding with Police Day, a public holiday commemorating the security forces. When huge crowds joined the rallies and turned them into anti-Mubarak protests, police cracked down, sparking days of bloody fighting. The Brotherhood joined the revolt.

In his speech, Morsi warned the police against divisions.

"Be aware, as I know you are, against breaking ranks or else our enemy will break us all," Morsi said. "Our enemy outside the country is happy when we are divided."

Rights activists on Facebook denounced Morsi's speech and questioned his suggestion that police were at the heart of the uprising.

"Instead of this talk that turns the facts upside down in an attempt to reach out to riot police, should it not be a priority first of the president to put forth a plan to repair the relationship between police and the people?" asked one group dedicated to the case of Khaled Said, a young man tortured to death by police in 2010. Said's death was a rallying cry in the anti-Mubarak protests.

Morsi acknowledged changes that have swept Egypt since the revolution, saying that his June 30 election as the country's first freely elected and first civilian president was a historical turning point for the police force.

In the past two years, around 100 policemen have been tried in cases related to the killing of protesters with almost all ending in acquittals.

Reform of the police is among protesters' top demands.

In the restive Suez Canal city of Port Said, thousands of residents rallied against Morsi on Friday. They also demanded retribution for the killing of around 45 people in clashes with police there this year.

The protest came a day after Morsi delivered a televised message to the people of Port Said, promising investigations that would uncover perpetrators of the recent unrest there.

Last week, protesters in the city torched security headquarters there, forcing the police to withdraw from the streets. The army, which took over security of the city, was enthusiastically welcomed.

That sentiment was echoed in Cairo, where several hundred people rallied on Friday in support of bringing back military rule and ousting Morsi.

Gender Wars: Brotherhood Vs. Egyptian Women

Atlantic Council

Gender Wars: The Muslim Brotherhood Versus Egypt's Women

March 14, 2013 

Mahmoud Salem

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) issued a highly critical statement yesterday against the draft proposal of the UN declaration on women’s rights.  The Muslim Brotherhood statement says that the proposed draft includes articles “that contradict established principles of Islam, undermine Islamic ethics and destroy the family”, and, if ratified, “would lead to [the] complete disintegration of society.”

The statement by the MB included 10 specific points of contention, the most controversial of which are the belief that ratifying the document would lead to the following: 
  • Granting equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships.
  • Giving wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger.
  • Replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores.
  • Full equality in marriage legislation such as: allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and abolition of polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending, etc.
  • Removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges, and sharing all property after divorce
  • Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception.
What is interesting about the MB’s objections, besides seemingly taking issue with women’s equality as a concept and with recognizing that husbands can rape their wives, is that their objections are more inferred from the spirit of the draft document than from the document itself.

What is even more bizarre is objecting to topics that weren’t even mentioned in the draft, like “granting equal rights to homosexuals, and providing protection and respect to prostitutes.” 

Unfortunately, the National Council for Women (NCW) focused on the latter point, attacking the Muslim Brotherhood stance, describing it as a “misleading statement” that aims for sensational and inflammatory politics. I say unfortunately because that entirely misses the point of the MB statement and doesn’t provide the appropriate response that the NCW should have given.

For example, while the draft resolution doesn’t call for providing protection or respect for prostitutes, it does call for ending violence against all women, which would include the minority that work in prostitution.

Those women, while their job may be deemed immoral or illegal in certain countries, deserve protection from violence like any other human being or citizen of their country, a fact which the MB seems to take issue with.

Aside from using religion to oppose equality between men and women, they are even advocating dehumanizing - in the sense of deeming them unworthy of their human rights - those they consider morally bankrupt, like lesbians or prostitutes.

Protecting these two subgroups of citizens from violence is against Islam according to the MB, and therefore shouldn’t be allowed.

As for “regular” females, the MB believes that giving them the right to deny their husbands sex is blasphemous and that reporting spousal rape is destructive to both the family and society.

In a resolution aimed at stopping violence against women, the MB believes that sexual violence is permitted and should not be stopped if it takes place between two married partners. Domestic abuse? What’s that?

To call these objections a set-back to women’s rights in Egypt would be an understatement. The MB object to women even being allowed to use contraceptives without their husband’s consent, let alone work or travel.

We are witnessing, in the 21st century, a group that views women as nothing more than second class citizens or an inferior race that men are allowed to control, rape, or treat violently if they were “immoral”, without legal recourse, and in the name of Islam and the protection of society.

We are also witnessing the stripping away of the few rights that women had in Egypt before the revolution, which were nowhere near satisfactory then, but look really good now.

It’s an outrage, and a sad day for Egyptian women, but will hopefully shine a light on the war that the Muslim Brotherhood has been waging against Egyptian women for the past year.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), the main opposition coalition against the Muslim Brotherhood, whose voter-base is the women of the country, should stand firmly against such policies and recommendations. 

Unfortunately, social policy discourse, especially relating to women’s rights, has been severely lacking in Egypt, with some attributing this to the fact that the NSF is made up of 13 men. 

That needs to change. If the women of Egypt are to fight for their rights against the kind of misogynistic assault the MB seems intent on unleashing on them, the entity championing their issue cannot be made entirely of men, no matter how liberal or open-minded they may be. Now, more than ever, the need for a female political entity advancing women’s rights is paramount.

The international community would be correct to condemn the MB’s objections, particularly since they contravene international agreements and treaties of which Egypt is a signatory, and which as a group, they have promised to honor. 

Another commendable policy is the “more for more” approach that the European Parliament has taken to financial aid to Egypt, linking aid to democratic reforms. Interestingly, in a statement published today, MEP’s are withholding financial support to Egypt until they see progress in democracy, human rights and rule of law.

Their first point? Stopping violence against women.  By virtue of rapid response or fortunate timing, the EU Parliament is on the right side at the right time of the issue, and hopefully the rest of the world will follow.

*Photo by Gigi Ibrahim