Americans often complain of creeping fascism when someone DARES, I repeat, dares to criticize what they say.

What is not appreciated is that in many countries is how censorship actually works.

In the Philippines, newspapers are free (although TV stations have to be careful to “present both sides”) but here if you make someone angry, you just might be killed. So if you are a mayor who angers someone, or a businessman whose business threatens another business, or a leftist activist who angers the army, you just might get shot. And some of those who make people angry are journalists. So do we have a free press? Yes, because they can’t kill every one, and the country has a tradition of martyrdom in the cause of freedom.

But in a lot of countries, there is no press freedom. The press is run by the government. And of course if you control the printing presses and TV/radio news, you control the minds and hearts.

However, there are always ways to get around this. When I lived in one African country, we found out what was going on by listening to the BBC. In many Arab countries, AlJazeerah, which has editorial freedom, is popular. The Islamicists spread their message to Iran in the 1970’s by casette tapes. And now, the internet is the way for the good, the bad, and the ugly to spread their messages.

Now, a lot of countries censor the internet, like China. But who can check a million blog entries? So nowadays, blogs in Arab countries and in Iran are the way to spread ideas and talk to each other and let off steam.
But now a chill is going through the blogosphere. An Egyptian blogger has been jailed for four years for “insulting Islam and the president of Egypt”.

Pajamasmedia reports he was expelled from the university for posts, including one where he compared the prophet Mohammed with Ariel Sharon, and Sharon won. He also compared the president of Egypt to…a pharoh.
But that wasn’t good enough for the university official, who then reported Kareem to the police…and then:

He was refused the right to be released on bail, and finally was formally charged with his now three infamous charges: 1) disdain for religion, 2) insulting the President, 3) inciting sectarian strife and harming the stability of the country. All of these charges are very hard to define or defend against.

For the three months between his initial incarceration and trial, Abdel Kareem was held in solitary confinement, for fear his fellow inmates would find out why he was in jail and try to score extra points with God by harming him. The judge refused all of the requests from the defense to ease his conditions, causing Abdel Kareem’s lawyers to withdraw in protest.

Then, when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, his Islamist father publicly announced that he intended to attend the sentencing in order to disown him in public, and demanded Sharia law be applied his son...”

(under Shria law he would be executed).

His friends have a website FreeKareem, and are posting information and also articles defending him, such as this one that explains why his criticism of unjust customs and laws was in the tradition of Islam.

Reporters without borders has called his sentence a “slap in the face” to freedom of the press. They also note that Egypt is one of 13 countries who they have listed as enemies to freedom of speech on the internet, joining such countries as Syria, Iran, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International has also taken up his cause.

Supporters hope to hold rallies to garner publicity, in hopes that the Egyptian government will commute his sentence.

It is hoped that international pressure will shorten his sentence.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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