Repressing the press in Egypt

In an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq denied that Egyptian authorities have tried to muzzle reporters and human rights activists through arbitrary arrests and detentions. Watch how Shafiq tried to dodge Crowley’s questions on the arrests of journalists by pretending he couldn’t hear the questions. Crowley had to repeat the question three times before Shafiq responded with a very patronizing non-denial denial that such arrests were “not intentional.” When Crowley pressed further with specific arrests carried out by the Egyptian military police, the Prime Minister did his best to feign surprise and outrage and assured Crowley that he would look into the matter.

Excerpts from CNN’s interview with the Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq:

CNN’s Candy Crowley: “Mr. Prime Minister, our reporters on the scene in Cairo tell us that while you negotiate about a democratic process, there are still arrests of local and international human rights activists as well as journalists. Why are you arresting them?”

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq: “No, no. I didn’t understand you. I didn’t understand you, friend.”

Crowley: “We are told that you are arresting human rights and journalists. Why?”


Shafiq: “No. I don’t hear right. I don’t hear right now…”

(Later in the interview…)

Crowley: “Let me ask you about arrests by the military police. Why are they arresting…”

Shafiq: “About…About what?”

Crowley: “Arrests. About the detention of human rights activists. Why are you detaining them?”

Shafiq: “Oh. Huh… Frankly speaking, if there is some problem it’s not intended at all, my dear. Frankly speaking, I insist to assure all the authorities here not to ban anyone or not to bother anyone doing his work in this… This is not at all intended my dear…”

Crowley: “We were told by our reporters today that you have arrested another Al Jazeera reporter from Al Jazeera English as well as more human rights activists, and it’s the Egyptian military police. Do you have a way to get them to stop those arrests?”

Shafiq: “After our telephone now, after our contact now, I will go directly to check this point and if you permit me, I will give you an answer if there is something like that. But they are not allowed – at all – to do something like that.”

Which scenario is more disturbing: a) a Prime Minister who can lie so balatantly or b) a Prime Minister who can’t seem to exercise an ounce of control over the military, police or the interior ministry’s security forces?

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