I met Alaa Abd El Fattah a few weeks ago at the Arab Bloggers Meeting in Tunisia. I interviewed him for the Spanish news-site I contribute to, Periodismo Humano, and he shared his insights on the role bloggers performed during the movilizations in Egypt and the challenges ahead. A few weeks later, Alaa is in prison for allegedly “inciting violence”. Facing military trial, he has refused to answer questions in order not to grant it legitimacy. The Egyptian military has tried tried more than 12,000 civilians since January, when Egyptians toppled Mubarak.
When I asked Alaa about the role of bloggers during and after the revolution, he mentioned how bloggers and online activists have been key catalizers of the demands of other members of Egyptian society. They have echoed the demands of trade unions, teachers and other professionals, whose voices are not normally covered by mass media, and have been at the forefront of defending human rights in the country. Alaa and all others demanding freedom, justice and an end to emergency law are being persecuted today just as they were during Mubarak´s dictatorship.
The Egyptian military has received approximately $1.9 billion of US taxpayer money since 1979, according to EFF International Director of Freedom of Speech Jillian C. York. All of us hoping for a free Egypt (and a free Bahrain, and a free Syria, and a free Yemen…) demand and end of military trials and an end of all international support for this institution. International efforts, after months of praising the legitimacy of citizen demands on the region, should focus on supporting free speech and granting the rights of all citizens. Free Alaa!