Bad news

Abu Aardvark summarizes a purported draft Egyptian media law published yesterday by Almasry Alyoum:

The draft law would establish a new national agency to issue all broadcast licenses, and to regulate and censor all forms of broadcast media. It defines broadcast media very broadly to include the internet and all other forms of communicating text, video or audio. It also defines prohibited content incredibly broadly, as anything which negatively affects social peace, national unity, the principle of citizenship, public order or public ethics.

This fits into a broader pattern of recent measures by the Egyptian government to crack down on media. In February, Egypt and Saudi Arabia introduced the Arab League Satellite Broadcast Charter. It was ratified by most members initially, but later stumbled as states couldn’t agree on how to implement the overbroad text.

My initial take on the satellite charter was that it reflected an existing reality (journalists occasionally harassed) rather than a major change in the politics of censorship. If this bill is passed, however, all bets are off. It seems to be calling for prior restraint rather than after the fact harassment. Extending the definition of “broadcast” to online activities opens up a whole different can of worms, and is clearly a response to the increasing use of blogs/ facebook/ youtube to organize protests and embarass the regime.

What a fine time for me to start a blog.