Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Egyptian Media Reacts to USCIRF Report

In response to the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that condemned Egypt, along with few other countries such as Iran, for its violations of human rights (linked here), Egypt's leading newspapers--not unexpectedly--varied widely in their reaction from condemnation and rejection of the report, to denial of the accusations brought by the USCIRF, to simply stating the key points brought to light by this report.

For example, Rose Al-Youssef newspaper, which is considered to be the mouthpiece of the government, was the most vocal in its rejection and condemnation. It mocked the report in a cheap way and denied all its allegations and statements on human rights violations in Egypt.

Al-Masry Al-Youm, on the other hand was the paper that was most objective and unbiased in its reporting, accurately reflecting the true content of the report without any criticism. While the Arabic version of the publication can be seen here, the English translation is linked to here and is also posted below:
US State Department: Egyptian Government Backtracked on Respecting Freedom of Belief

Mohamed Abdel Khalik Mesahil 21/9/2008

The annual report for 2008 by the US International Commission on Religious Freedoms included a negative image about the religious freedoms in Egypt.

The report, recently issued by the US State Department, said there was general backtracking on the Egyptian government respect of the freedom of belief.

The report said the government imposed restrictions on performing some religious rituals although they are enshrined in the constitution. It mentioned some positive steps.

However, it accused the government of failure to stop what it called discrimination against Christians. The police had slow response to some sectarian incidents, not to mention obstacles to the building and renovation of churches.

The report noted that the government does not recognize Muslims embracing Christianity or any other religion and bans them from performing rituals although there was no law banning Muslims from embracing other religions. The police harass them and accuse them of inciting sectarian disputes.

The report criticized, in general, the government practices against non-Muslim minorities, focusing, in particular, on its failure to officially recognize followers of the Baha'i. The Bahaists have no IDs.

The report monitored government discrimination against the Christians, saying that the government, represented by Ministry of Religious Endowments, finances the building of mosques and pays salaries of imams, but does not do the same with churches.

Moreover, the ministry controls all mosques and preachers, as well as different activities in mosques and keeps churches out of government control.

It criticized Al-Azhar being entitled to seize publications and artistic works. It referred to the failure to recognize the sect of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormon Church. The government also stopped the advice sessions held for the Christians who embraced Islam.

The report monitored the government practices against the Muslim Brotherhood Group and the detention of hundreds of its members. It also monitored what it called the growing anti-Semitic feelings in Egyptian newspapers.


  1. One needs to understand the forces behind the two publications to see things clear. Ruz Al Yousef is totally tied to the highest committee in the ruling party. Whatever the party wishes to convey to the public it will pass it through the magazine or the daily newspaper. You will find that the author, Karam Gabr (CEO of the establishment and one of the least respected journalists in the media) did not deny the Baha'is their rights or get to the meat of the problem which could be an indication that the party does not wish to take a clear position against the civil rights of the Baha'is.

    Al Gomhoreya is run by people who owe their jobs to the President and the level of their blind loyalty to the regime is comic most of the time. Their defense is totally ignorant and reminds me of Egyptian housewives shouting nonsense at each other from their balconies. They even state that Egypt is one of the US fierce enemies and try to classify it with China as a rival. At other times they will brag about how Egypt is a strong ally to the US. It all depends on what news piece they're covering.

  2. Thank you so much for this insight. It helps to understand the background of how these papers work. Fortunately there are still some news outlets in Egypt that remain free in the true spirit of journalism.

  3. today rose alyousef put reply of mr Abou Algheet that mentioned about 29january 2008 court rulling without mentioning applealing of it & that will be in superim court next 27-9-2008

  4. http://www.id3m.com/D3M/View.php?language=english&TreeID=243&image=p37-012-01-24092008.jpg&Number=2&ID=207622

  5. At this link you will also find the massive response to USCIRF report published in several Egyptian newspapers. Interestingly, they are full of denials and condemnation of the report. No one seems to have the courage to admit to the cited violations or have the foresight to propose corrective measures! A society cannot improve or advance by living in total denial of existing reality....

  6. basmagm,
    As you said, Egypt's foreign minister only provides half truth in his cover-up of how the Baha'is of Egypt are really treated. He only states that the 29 January 2008 court ruling allowed them to obtain ID cards with "dashes" in place of religion, but he entirely neglected to mention the fact that, until this moment, the ruling has not been implemented and that not a single Baha'i was able to obtain identification documents since the aforementioned ruling.


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