Middle East

English translation of draft Egyptian broadcast law

Someone intrepid over at Arab Media & Society has put up an English translation of the Egyptian draft broadcast law originally published here by Almasry Alyoum. As Marc Lynch has pointed out, the definition of “broadcasting” is overly broad, so as to ensnare things such as blogging and Facebook activity. They define “audiovisual broadcasting” as:

any and all coded or decoded broadcasting, transmission or provision of voices or images or both together or any other representation thereof, orsignals or writings of any kind that are not taken as private correspondence that the public, particular categories, or individuals are allowed to receive and interact with. This includes broadcasting through telecommunication, cables or satellites, computer networks, digital media or any other broadcasting, communication, or provision mediums or techniques.

The bill establishes an authority responsible for regulating all broadcasting, ensuring its accuracy, licensing it, and prohibiting all the fun stuff like

negatively impacting social peace, national unity, citizenship, public order and public moral codes.

You can read the whole bloody thing here at the AMS website, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s quite boring.

Middle East

Egypt and Iran: Diplomacy and documentary

For the last few months, we’ve been hearing about an imminent reconciliation between Cairo and Tehran. Ahmadinejad and Mubarak had pledged to swap full ambassadors, and diplomats had agreed to a renaming of the street in Tehran named after Anwar Sadat’s assassin, Khaled Eslamboli. For those of you updating your Open Streetmaps, its now called Intifada Street.

Then two weeks ago, news breaks of an Iranian documentary called “Execution of a Pharaoh” which portrays Sadat as a tyrant, vilifies him for signing Camp David, and carries a dedication to the “soul of the martyr Captain Ahmad Shuqi Khaled Eslamboli and his fellow warriors.”The film, produced by the “Cultural Committee for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement” is now up on YouTube.Here’s part 1:


The one tiny detail left out of English language coverage of this story is that the documentary was produced in Arabic not Farsi, which gives a much clearer idea that it was aimed at Arab audiences.

And its audience, evidently, was not pleased. Online article comments sections were flooded with negative comments, and the state press and TV were all over the story. Egypt summoned the Iranian Charge d’Affairs for a chewing out, canceled a soccer match with Iran, while an Iranian source was quoted in Al Ahram Weekly as saying, “the significance of the issue of the film is that it confirms the worries of some Egyptian officials who complain that Iran has multi centres of decisions, which makes negotiations difficult.”

This week there is news that the editor of the Egyptian NDP mouthpiece Al-Watani Al-Youm will produce a documentary titled “Imam of Blood” smearing Khomeini. The AP is also reporting that the Cairo offices of the Iranian-backed Arabic satellite channel Al-Alam have been shut.

Not 100% sure what to make of it yet, but I wanted to pull together what I’ve got so far. Since all films made in Iran must, officially, go through the Supreme Leader-linked Ershad Ministry, the government at some point put a stamp of approval on the film. Keep in mind that it has been Ahmadinejad – not Khamenei – who has been calling loudest for revival of ties with Egypt. So perhaps in Iran we have a President/ Supreme Leader division on the subject.

Egypt’s government, for sure, has decided to make a big deal of this. Is it simply officials having second thoughts about reviving diplomacy with Tehran’s “multiple power centers” or is there something else, maybe pressure from Washington, involved? From the looks of it, the Sadat film did seem to create a popular backlash, but it seemed like a popular backlash the government was keen to stoke.

I don’t think we’ll see IranAir flying to Cairo anytime soon.

UPDATE: This video has proved not legit, or at least not what it was purported to be. (Thanks Zeinobia). Actually I think this makes the story much more interesting. More on this in a few days.

Middle East

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.


Friday in Cairo survives month one

And my most productive month at work to boot! Another important milestone below from the Onion:

Pentagon’s Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission

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