In today’s Washington Post, Egyptian finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali boasts away:
Economic growth has helped make Egyptian civil society the most dynamic in the Middle East. Independent satellite broadcasts reach 70 percent of the population. There are more than 500 independent journalism publications and more than 160,000 bloggers. Indeed, there are more opposition dailies in Egypt than in any other Middle Eastern nation. There is also Internet freedom; Google searches are unfettered.
Funny timing. Today Egyptian student blogger Kareem Amer is supposed to be freed after four years in prison. There are rumors that he will not be let out, even though he has officially completed his sentence. What offense put Amer in prison for four years? Criticizing the Egyptian dictator and “insulting Islam.” For all the talk of Egyptian reform, Egypt is still a country in which students can spend nearly half a decade in prison for writing the wrong blog post. Despite billions of dollars of annual U.S. aid to Egypt, the Mubarak regime flouts the very foundation of Western liberalism: freedom.
As is typical, Amer’s case disappeared from the public eye shortly after his imprisonment. But some human rights advocates have refused to let this issue die. Today CyberDissidents.org is hosting nationwide protests at Egyptian embassies, consulates, and American universities to remind people about Amer’s fate.
When Mubarak visited the White House in August 2009, President Obama thanked him for being a “leader and a counselor and a friend to the United States.” He praised Mubarak’s willingness to “advance the interest of peace and prosperity around the world.” It would be nice if we could ask Kareem Amer for his thoughts on those statements.