#FreeBloggers: Free the imprisoned Egyptian bloggers! #FreeAlaa #FreeMaikel

In times when freedom of the press is suppressed and media controlled by government or other interests, the responsibility of pointing out wrong-doings falls to the citizens. The civil journalism found on the Internet form an integral engine for developing democracy in many countries. With blogs and other social media as their tools, they expose injustice and misconduct in the society, even when the media landscape is being completely controlled.

As the Arab Spring’s historic events have shown, bloggers are not only citizen-journalists. With them they carry the hope of democracy, freedom and dignity to all. Freedom of speech on the Internet, has become one of the most important dividing lines between dictatorship and democracy. Here you lift injustice and wrong-doings in the every-day life, and with the might of the pen you work towards change.

In many places the situation, for those that are engaged in democratic change, has become increasingly difficult. Several countries imprison or persecute people that criticize their governments openly in social media. One example of this is the fate of the Egyptian bloggers Alaa Abd El Fattah and Maikel Nabil.

Alaa Abd El Fattah is one of the main activists in the large and lively Egyptian blogosphere. In 2006 he was arrested, by the Mubarak regime, to set an example to other bloggers. Bloggers that critically discussed the things that happened in Egypt were regarded as a threat. Unfortunately nothing has changed and today the process of democratization is endangered by this.

About a month ago, Alaa was imprisoned again. This time it was the ruling Military Council of Egypt. His time in captivity is prolonged by two weeks at a time, which causes his family great concern, and especially his pregnant wife. The process against him shows that the aim is to silence an important node in the movement for democracy in Egypt, before the election. Earlier this year this movement toppled the dictator Mubarak, and it is once again taking the protests out to the streets.

Yet another civil rights activist, Maikel Nabil, has been in prison since the end of March this year, accused of distortion of the slogan of the Egyptian Military Council, ‘the army and the people are one hand’, at his blog. He discussed and criticized the development after the fall of Mubarak, under the heading ”The army and the people are never one hand”. This was interpreted by the regime as an attack on the system, and Maikel is now serving a three-year sentence for high treason.

Alaa and Maikel are far from alone. In addition, they are used as warning examples to intimidate others not to challenge and criticize injustice, or speak in situations where others remains silent. In a democracy-under-construction, this is a sign of a dangerous development that the surrounding world ought to react on.

We, the undersigned have all, just as Alaa and Maikel, chosen to participate in the public conversation through blogs and other social media. We hope that more people want to raise the issue of the importance of free speech and show the surrounding world that we take notice and that we care. Freedom of speech and thought must be respected, and all bloggers that are being imprisoned because of their opinions must be freed immediately!

Our message is clear: Free the champions of free speech!


Instructions on how to join the #FreeBloggers petition

This is a joint petition written by a number of Swedish and international bloggers, who all want to highlight the importance of freedom of speech. We have different backgrounds, we write about different things and certainly have different priorities – but we all gather around an issue that we value highly.

If you agree with the petition text you are more than welcome to join us! If you would like to join, please do as follows:

1. Write a post on your own blog, if you wish, where you state that you have signed this petition. In this case, please choose a separate title and explain in your own words why this is important to you.

2. Fill in your name and the URL of your blog (or Twitter account etc.) below. If you have chosen to write your own blog post, please fill in the direct URL for this post and send.

3. Tell your friends that you have signed the petition, so that they can read your post and the petition and possibly sign the petition as well.

The petition will be open this weekend and will continue into next week. The possibility to sign the petition will then be closed, but the petition text will of course remain public. The goal will then be to get the petition published in the daily press, with all collected names as joint signatures.

Questions? Ask the person who introduced you to the petition or the owner of the blog where you read about it. More general questions about the initiative can be answered by Marcin @dekaminski (via Twitter is easiest).

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