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Egyptian singers get jail time for humor

by Alyssa Daley - Editor-in-chief
Fri, Mar 9th 2018 03:00 pm

Egypt is one of the many countries in the world that is known for being strict and able to deal out severe punishment without the blink of an eye. The government will do whatever it needs to do in order to uphold its standards for its citizens. Since 2014, 14 journalists have been imprisoned within the countries borders and thankfully, the last time any journalist was killed was in 2014, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. You might think this is a sign pointing toward a more forgiving governing body in Egypt; however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In the grand scheme of things it’s quite easy to understand how a journalist could find themselves in hot water when it comes to a government that likes to be anything but transparent, but it’s much more difficult to justify putting a native-born celebrity in jail for two years over one wise-cracking joke. This is exactly what happened to Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel Wahab on Tuesday, Feb. 27. For those of you who don’t know, Sherine is one of the country’s most famous singers. She is currently convicted by a Cairo court of spreading false news on the Arabic version of the television show, “The Voice,” according to BBC.

At this point, I think the average person would be trying to justify this and begin thinking of what she possibly could have said on national TV that would land her in jail. Did she make a controversial statement about President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi or any of the top-tier government officials? Did she insult the national animal of Egypt, the steppe eagle? The answer is unfortunately no and no, all she did was make the off-handed comment to one of her fans that drinking from the Nile might give them parasites and that they should “drink Evian instead,” according to BBC.

Now, I don’t know about all of you, but I believe her warning about not drinking water from the Nile is some solid advice for those who have the option of drinking the river’s water versus filtered. On the other hand, much of Egypt’s population like its neighbors rely on the Nile. In 1999, all 10 nations through which the Nile River runs came together to form the Nile Basin Initiative. The organization’s goal is to promote cooperative development that will protect the Nile environment and provide equal benefit to all of the nations’ people who rely on it, according to koshland-science-museum.org.

This initiative seems to be working, as the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation in Egypt, Mohamed Bahaaeldin, made a statement in April 2012 that the water of the Nile is free of any pollutants that could harm those drinking it, according to allafrica.com.

After all the work and money Egypt has put into making the Nile a clean water resource, it’s now unders

tandable why the government might have been justified to get a little upset over it. I mean, in America today, Trump probably would have simply tweeted something untrue and heinous about Sherine and maybe his people would’ve had a talk with her people. It would be just to say “hey we’d appreciate it if you didn’t touch on this matter again,” and that would be the end of it. Granted, we have freedom of speech here to an extent and as the statement was made in a joking matter and not directly targeting the administration Trump nor his minions could really do anything about. Now, in Egypt where there are no such things as freedom of speech, press, petition and assembly, the so called government when from zero to 60 within a  of moments and decided to throw poor Sherine into prison for six months (the original sentence was two years), ordered her to pay 5,000 Egyptian pounds as bail and a fine of 10,000 pounds in order to remain free until her case is concluded, according to BBC and NPR. 

Sherine, although she is the most recent celebrity to be punished by the government, is not the first nor will she be the last. Before Sherine, a singer by the name of Shyma was convicted of “corrupting public morals” and “inciting debauchery” after her “I have issues” music video showed her undressing and eating fruit evocatively, and sentenced to one year in prison, according to NPR. 

If this was a thing in the United States, then Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Joe Jonas and the rest of the DNCE would all be serving jail time right about now, along with about 50 other artists from the past and present industry. It’s hard to compare Egypt to the U.S. because they are two distinctly different nations but at the same time, it shows how Egypt takes those who represent their country’s actions very seriously. They might not be in the right most of the time, because they go for the extreme in order to try and set an example, but at the same time, I don’t think their president would be allowed to say/do half of the things Trump has said and done.

It’s those pesky pros and cons I suppose. We have to allow people like Trump who are rash and don’t follow the rule we’re all taught as children, which is to think before you speak, say their piece in order for brilliant activists like Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and Angela Davis to speak their minds.

 

stylus@brockport.edu

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