If you live in a free democratic secular country, try and think carefully about the last time you heard of someone being prosecuted for insulting a leader or religious figure. It will probably be hard to do as most democracies value freedom of expression and speech very highly.
However if you visit post revolution Tunisia or Egypt you won’t find anything like this sort of freedom. Imagine in the United Kingdom over the last few weeks, the number of people insulting the ex-primeminister Margaret Thatcher – you’d have locked up millions of people. However in Egypt a TV satirist Bassem Youssef is being charged by Egyptian prosecutors for insulting Islam and President Morsi. The Muslim bortherhood who made so many liberal and democratic promises to the people of Egypt actually filed a lawsuit to ban the political show that he produces.
Freedom of expression in these countries is actually in some ways looking worse than under the previous dictators. In Tunisia a rapper called Wld El 15 has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for ’insulting the police’ -seems a little harsh?? His alleged crime was for releasing a video criticising the police for using excessive force. The producer and a dancer who appeared in the video were arrested – Ala Yaakoubi then disappeared.
Of course we’re all used to some elements of filtering and censorship in our own lives. We’ve all probably clicked on an interesting YouTube video to be informed that this is not available in your country. In democratic nations this is more likely to be due to corporate actions or licensing restrictions than anything more sinister. But imagine voicing crticisisms of your elected ruler and suddenly facing a prison term – this is the environment that the young people of Egypt and Tunisia find themselves in.
The revolution particularly in Egypt was inspired by young people seeking a free and open society. Instead they are being faced with the usual dictatorial restrictions but this time applied by old, religious extremists. All have promised laws to protect freedom of both the media and the people, yet it is still an environment where TV producers and pop stars are arrested for merely voicing their opinions.!