In my article yesterday on “Mubarak and Anti-Semitism: A Boomerang Effect?”, I discussed the banning by the Egyptian government of several private religious channels in October 2010. The channels affected by the ban included Al-Nas and Al-Rahma: two Islamist channels that were well known for broadcasting anti-Semitic diatribes. The government accused the channels of “incitement to religious hatred.” The charge may also have referred to incitement against Egypt’s own Coptic Christian population.
Referring to the ban, as well as warnings issued to twenty other religious channels, the then Egyptian Minister of Information Anas al-Fiqi explained:
These corrective measures are intended to protect the Egyptian and Arab peoples from broadcasters determined to make calls for murder, degradation of religious groups, and the endangerment of people living with serious illnesses – all in pursuit of profit and extremist ideologies. (Source: Al-Masry Al-Youm)
Responding to al-Fiqi’s charges, a spokesman for Al-Nas insisted, “These are vague accusations. Words like ‘terrorism,’ ‘extremism’ and ‘violence’ are very loose and lack precision. There is no evidence to prove this.”
For western sensibilities, of course, the very existence of a so-called Minister of Information is suspect. But it should be noted that in banning the channels accused by it of incitement, the Egyptian government was doing nothing different than what French authorities have also done in banning Al-Rahma, as well as the Lebanese channel Al-Manar, from French satellite television.
Although the Egyptian government of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik is reportedly continuing to conduct the business of state, one member of Shafik’s government is reported not only to have resigned, but to have been placed under house arrest: namely, the now former Minister of Information Anas al-Fiqi. A group known as the Arabic Network for Human Rights has accused Al-Fiqi of committing “incitement” against Egyptians. It appears to be payback time for the minister who dared to silence the Islamist channels.