OPINION: HARD TALK: Monday, April 08, 2013 8:29 AM
In the post-Arab Spring period, the debate on the freedom of speech seems to be reaching new heights. The debate has escalated following Egypt’s general prosecutors’ action against the renowned satirist Bassam Yousef and the questioning Yousef underwent during a brief, but tense interrogation episodes.
It seems that the “new” governments that have come to power as a result of the peoples’ will to bring about a serious and complete change have very little appetite for a “new” level of freedom of expression. But this intolerance by the governments is mainly due to the poor and shaky legal and constitutional structures in those countries that fail to draw clearly the rights and freedom in an institutional manner and therefore avoid any sort of misunderstanding or confusion. This clarity is obviously very much absent and is in great need as it seems it is going to be, most likely, the great new battleground between the polarized political functions as the multifaceted groups can no longer agree on working together nor can they differ in a civil manner.
Freedom of expression is not really so new in the Arab world, particularly in a country like Egypt, which saw what can be described as an avant garde movement in the 1940, with witty cartoonists going wild in being politically critical of the Egyptian government. There was a very gutsy magazine by the name of “El-Baakooka”, which specialized in producing very aggressive and comical political critique of the state.
Egypt with every issue is testing the patience and tolerance of the Egyptian government. The laws back there seemed accommodating enough although not very thorough. Now there is almost a desperate need to evolve or even develop some seriously researched laws that protect and define freedom of expression as this remains a vague and murky area and needs immediate attention.
The next period it seems belongs to the lawyers as they will be responsible for creating “new territories” to charter this great noise in the Arab societies into a clear and constructive path and move the discourse from a chaotic one to something focused and constructive.
The confusion between freedom and liberties, do’s and don’t’s, needs to be settled once and for all. This will only happen once there’s an admission that there is actually a problem and it needs to be solved.
Arabs sat for a long time under a shaded tree thinking “this” is good enough. But after an eye opener and a great discovery leading to somewhat of a rude awakening discovery that freedom needs to be achieved, the Arabs should also assert that freedom of expression is a natural right as well.