Five years ago, in January 2011, images of the revolution from Cairo’s Tahrir Square that led to the fall of the Mubarak government were watched around the world.
As January 25, 2016 approached, the Egyptian authorities put the word out and the media echoed it – that history would not be allowed to repeat itself. The message was clear: Do not take to the streets.
“There is a concerted campaign against freedom of expression in Egypt. But that campaign is not intimidating all journalists. There are many brave voices that remain in Egypt and despite all the risks, they continue to call out what they see is wrong, says journalist Khaled Diab.
Last week, five people who started Facebook pages marking the anniversary of the revolution were arrested, accused of supporting the now banned Muslim Brotherhood.
According to press freedom groups, the number of journalists in Egyptian jails is at an all-time high. As Human Rights Watch puts it, we’re seeing “a pattern of security agencies arresting people whose writings don’t conform to official views”.
The bulk of the mainstream news media in Egypt aligned itself with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi against the Muslim Brotherhood, but now that the organisation has been forced underground there are some signs that the media’s “Sisi-mania” is waning.
Cracks are beginning to show, with both TV and print outlets re-discovering their critical faculties on matters of governance, corruption, and economic policy.
Still, there are limits, and those who cross them risk much more than their jobs. Our starting point this week – five years after the revolution that represented the high watermark of the Arab Spring – is Cairo. ALJAZEERA