Tonight have a drink and give a Tweet to the man who spent four years in an Egyptian jail, and remember that he is not the first, nor the last, blogger or writer to be silenced. Be thankful that we live in a nation where “highlighting inappropriate aspects” about your country won’t get us thrown in prison (it might actually get you a TV show).
After more than four years in an Egyptian prison, Kareem Amer was released, having finished out his sentence. Kareem was jailed as a result of articles he’d published on the Internet that were secular in nature and critical of the Egyptian government. He was officially charged with “spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security,” “defaming the president of Egypt,” “incitement to overthrow the regime,” “incitement to hate Islam, and breach of public peace.” And finally, he was accused of “highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading them to the public.”
The many people of various ideologies who threw their support behind Kareem will be celebrating his release tonight, including CEI. While you toast to the liberation of an innocent man, remember that there are many others who are currently being silenced and that freedom, even here in the United States, is something that requires constant and serious vigilance. There are more insidious ways to silence free speech than simply locking someone up in prison.
Intellectuals of the libertarian bent are often painted as being reactionary, inflammatory, and petulantly idealistic. In some cases, that might be true. Yet, what we seek to do, some with more finesse than others, is defend individual rights and freedoms from every threat, no matter how small it may appear.
Forcing artists, writers, or any individual to alter or eliminate his or her work, whether it is a video game, TV show, movie, play, or blog, is also a threat to free expression. It may not seem like much at first — and Americans would not stand for a blogger being thrown in jail simply for saying something the government didn’t like — however, they have stood by while state, local, and federal government officials, wielding their pens like knives, cut into our freedoms with a thousand tiny pen strokes. After enough of those cuts, the fabric that maintains our liberty in this country and separates us from Egypt begins to fall apart.
They silenced Kareem because he said things they didn’t like. There are ways even in the “liberal West” in which one group can use the government to silence or limit the speech of another group or individual, simply because they don’t like what they hear (for example, the recent discussions about reviving the Fairness Doctrine.) That is why, while we celebrate one man’s freedom, we must remember that the fight is ongoing and that the best way we can defend liberty around the world is to defend our right to speak up here at home.
Image credit: MohammedMaree ???? ???? mar3e’s flickr photostream.