Global Voices Citizen Media summit: Noha Atef, Torture in Egypt
Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah spoke just now at Global Voices Summit about bloggers who resist government censorship. YouTube and mobile blogging and cameraphones are extremely important. But also, connecting bloggers and photobloggers to the wider struggle for democracy in Egypt. The stakes are very high for the government, and you can't fight in isolation to publish what you like without consequence to your body, to your freedom. Alaa spoke at length about Noha Atef (or Noha Atif, or Noha Al-Atif) who runs the Torture in Egypt site, Al-Tatheeb fi Masr, to document human rights abuses. She has lost jobs and her family has been threatened because of her dedicated years of blogging.
Noha tries to expose police officers accused of torturing multiple people. The newspaper Egypt Today reports that Noha began blogging to document cases of women being tortured as a way to pressure their husbands. Alaa explains that on the Torture in Egypt blog, there are photos, names, faces, and each incident is tagged with names of the officers who are alleged torturers. Thus, Noha's blog has become a database of evidence, which has been used in court cases against police abuse. Alaa says,
The police and government want to stop Noha any way they can. What can we do to protect this kind of speech? Realize the enemies of free speech are REALLY being threatened. This is not a soft cause. The persecution Noha faced is very subtle. She is a young lady living with her family. They started pressuring her parents, threatnening to kidnap and rape her. The family was able to exert so much pressure on her, she had to stop blogging completely for a while. They made her lose her job. Now she works for a more radical paper, has kept that job for 2 years, but she creates a very big problem in her family.
This relates back to my post yesterday from the Global Voices Advocacy meeting. Anyone blogging from within their home and family, and I feel especially women face this problem worldwide, may find privacy and anonymity tools to be useful.
Alaa also said something relevant to both women and men in considering censorship:
It's easier to stand up to a dictator than to stand up to your father.
This is not exactly "self-censorship" if you are dependent on your family, and may face domestic violence as well as direct political oppression, for your choice to speak in public, your survival can be threatened by your blogging.
Alaa's blog has a few posts in English, including many of his posts from 2006 about his time in jail for participating in peaceful protests. I recommend his blog to readers of BlogHer and also, the blogs I have mentioned before you can find from the Kolna Laila project, a roundup of Egyptian women's blogs.