Cartoonist’s Arrest Brings Free Speech Issues In Egypt Back Into Focus

Nearly two years ago, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pledged his "new Egypt" would guarantee the freedom of speech. He lied.


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s election in 2014 went against, in so many ways, the principles that drove the 2011 Egyptian revolution marking the end of a 30-year-old tyrannical regime under Hosni Mubarak.

Sisi’s critics feared he might turn out to be yet another dictator who would try to quell the freedoms of the Egyptian people. As it turns out, they were absolutely right.

Egyptian authorities have continued arresting government critics over the past two years, despite Sisi’s promises for a better future for free speech in the country.

On Jan. 31, Islam Gaweesh, a prominent Egyptian cartoonist, was arrested and charged with running a webpage without a license.

But the real reason, his lawyer later revealed, was publishing drawings critical of the regime.

"Unofficially and verbally, I was told that Islam Gawish was accused of using [means of communication] to spread anti-regime cartoons," Mahmoud Othman told Ahram Online.

"The arrest of Islam is illegal and unconstitutional as the 2014 Constitution's Article 67 clearly stipulates that the state has to protect artists and intellectuals," he added, adding Gaweesh’s arrest is just one of the many activists and journalists detained in Egypt over the past several months.

Although it’s not yet known which of Gaweesh’s creations landed him in hot water, The New York Times notes the cartoonist more recently targeted pro-government lawyer and lawmaker Mortada Mansour. Mansour is notorious for threatening to hit human rights activists with shoes. Oddly enough, the man was selected to head the parliament's human rights committee last month.

Gaweesh showed Mansour in his caricature standing next to a torturer and his victim saying: "Lash the lights out of him, but gently," the NYT reported.

As mentioned above, Gaweesh isn’t the only one to have suffered the wrath of Egyptian authorities over satire. Last month, two Egyptian media figures got into trouble for mocking the police by handing then condom balloons on Jan. 25, the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising, in Tahrir Square.

Banner / Thumbnaiil : Reuters

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