Egypt escalates crackdown on media ahead of election

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s government has sought to exert heavy control over reporting on the March 26-28 election, where is is running virtually unopposed. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Egypt escalates crackdown on media ahead of election

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have published a list of telephone numbers for citizens to use to bring to the attention of prosecutors any media reports they perceive as undermining the country’s security or hurting public interest.
The publication of the numbers — listed in a statement issued late on Monday by the office of Egypt’s chief prosecutor — is a step up in the government’s crackdown on the media, less than two weeks before the presidential election in which the incumbent, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, is running virtually unopposed.
Last week, chief prosecutor Nabil Sadeq told his staff to monitor the media and move against any they consider to be “hurting national interests.”
Monday’s statement, however, has potentially provided millions of Egyptians who support Sisi and his government with an official channel to complain against any media content critical of the authorities.
The statement listed eight mobile phone numbers for different parts of Egypt, advising citizens to send complaints on WhatsApp or as text messages. It instructed citizens to provide their personal details, along with their complaints, and said the move was a follow-up to Sadeq’s statement last week.
Sisi’s government has already sought to exert heavy control over reporting on the March 26-28 election, issuing guidelines barring journalists from asking people who they would vote for beforehand or from conducting any polling.
Authorities have also increasingly depicted criticism as a violation of national security at a time when Egypt is trying to revive its economy battered by years of turmoil and contain an insurgency by Islamic militants.
A general-turned-president, Sisi has worked to quiet much of the media, demanding everyone fall in line with his policies to restore stability. But the threat of prosecution is in contrast to mostly indirect methods used in the past to silence dissenters.
The state media and most privately-owned TV networks are loyal to Sisi and spearheaded by powerful talk show hosts who lavishly praise his policies, cover up failures and demonize critics.
Critical TV personalities have been taken off air and dozens of independent and Islamist news sites on the Internet have been blocked. With pro-government media sometimes depicting foreign press as promoting a negative image of Egypt, cameramen in the streets can sometimes face harassment from crowds or police.
Since the crackdown began, a pro-government talk show host was detained for two days for insulting the police on his state TV talk show in which he advocated for higher salaries for policemen.
Egypt’s State Information service has called on officials and the country’s “elite” to boycott the BBC after it broadcast a report on the repression of dissent under Sisi that addressed torture and forced disappearances. It has demanding an apology from the BBC and asked the broadcaster to confirm that its report contained inaccuracies.
Also this month, prosecutors ordered the detention of two journalists after their arrest while preparing a report on the historic tramway in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. In a separate case, the playwright and director of a play staged at a Cairo sports club were arrested for their involvement in a play seen as insulting to security forces.
Egyptian authorities have waged a fierce crackdown on Islamists since 2013, when Sisi as defense minister led the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist whose one year in office proved divisive. Thousands of Islamists have been arrested, and the campaign has also targeted secular pro-democracy activists, many of whom are now in prison.
Sisi has said he wants to build a modern and democratic state but has also said liberties must take a backseat to ensuring stability and fighting terror.


Arab News launches ‘Road to 2030’ section to track Saudi Arabia’s bold reforms

Updated 22 September 2018
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Arab News launches ‘Road to 2030’ section to track Saudi Arabia’s bold reforms

  • Section to provide news, opinion and analysis on country’s transformation
  • Newspaper’s National Day coverage looks ahead to 
Kingdom’s high-tech future

RIYADH: Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English-language daily, today announces the launch of a digital service to track and explain the ambitious reforms underway in Saudi Arabia.
Announced on the eve of Saudi National Day, the new “Road to 2030” section will include the latest news, analysis and opinion around the reforms and transformation underway in the Kingdom.
Hosted on the paper’s website, the section  —  www.arabnews.com/road2030 —  is named after the Vision 2030 program unveiled in 2016 by HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the Kingdom’s heir to the throne. 
It coincides with Arab News’ special coverage of Saudi National Day, which marks the formation of the Kingdom on Sept. 23, 1932.
The theme of the souvenir edition, published on Sunday, will be around the future of the Kingdom —  and how the country will look as the 2030 reforms continue to take shape. 
The edition of the newspaper features a unique wrap-around cover illustrating how the country could look in 12 years’ time, as well as a timeline about the reforms and articles about their progress and young people’s views on the future of Saudi Arabia. 
 “We decided to not to limit our Saudi National Day to celebrating the Kingdom’s past —  but to also look ahead to its bright and promising future under the ambitious Vision 2030 plan,” said Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News.  
“This is reflected via the newspaper’s commissioned cover artwork, which imagines Saudi Arabia in 12 years’ time, as well as the stories by our promising team of young Saudi journalists and contributors. 
“We are also proud to launch the Road to 2030 section, which will track the changes underway in the Kingdom and be a reference for observers, visitors and investors in Saudi Arabia.”
Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). It has been the English newspaper of record for Saudi Arabia and the region for over 40 years.