In Egypt, a man sits in a prison cell.
He is, it is said, close to death.
His crime, as ludicrous as it might sound, was to write a blog. Nothing more, nothing less.
Here in Saunderstown, such a situation seems laughable, although in Cairo, there’s nothing amusing about it.
The man’s name is Maikel Nabil Sanad. He has been in jail since March.
More pertinent is the fact that Maikel has been on hunger strike for two months and doctors fear he does not have long left to live.
Death, it seems, doesn’t daunt a man determined to stand up for the things he believes in.
“If the militarists thought that I’d tire of my hunger strike and accept imprisonment and enslavement, then they’re dreamers,” Maikel said this week. “It’s more honourable for me to die committing suicide than it is allowing a bunch of Nazi criminals to feel that they’ve succeeded in restricting my freedom. I’m bigger than that farce.”
Farce is an apt word, although had we been in Maikel’s position, it’s possible we’d have used one a little stronger.
You see, to be thrown into prison, Maikel did nothing more than gently deride the notion that the Egyptian military was supporting its country’s people.
To be precise, he wrote that Egyptians had “managed to get rid of the dictator (the overthrown President Mubarak), but not the dictatorship”.
That is all. The charge, Insulting the Egyptian Army. Inside two weeks, he had been sentenced to three years in prison.
The thing that makes this such a farce is that Egpyt’s armed forces, having seized power in February, had been tasked with organising the transition to democracy. It has to be said they’ve not made the best start.
Do those in power in Cairo understand what democratic freedom entails?
Maikel says not and, here in our studio, for what it’s worth, he has our agreement.
Here, in a real democracy, we take our freedoms for granted.
Maikel’s mistreatment should serve as a reminder to us all.
A reminder that we’re indebted to men like Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers for shaping our lives, our ideals, our attitudes and our outlook.
Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.
The Freedom of Speech.
That’s the freedom to ‘have our say on any subject we please . . . to write and publish anything.’
It’s open to abuses, for sure. But rather that than the Egyptian example.
Not that the issue is exclusive to Egypt. Far from it, in fact.
In Tunisia, the bloggers, Tweeters and Facebook friends who helped to topple their own dictatorship fear that their online freedom is fast approaching an end.
In Saudi Arabia, three young film-makers have just been arrested for producing a short film examining poverty in the kingdom.
In Libya, once the celebrations have died down, such issues are sure to present some significant challenges.
China? Don’t get us started there.
Here in Saunderstown, where we are free to write anything we like, we support Maikel and his like and we salute their courage.
To quote the United States Declaration of Independence, if we may, all men are created equal.
It sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
Here’s to Maikel Nabil Sanad.
From one blogger to another . . .
We are all connected.