All posts by lizzie

Egypt’s Diminishing Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Media

Egypt has undergone a change in its approach to human rights. The current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, came to power after the previous president, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from office in 2013 by the Egyptian military. This new president does not try to hide his critical view of human rights. Since al-Sisi came into power, his government has jailed tens of thousands of political opponents and taken steps to criminalize the work of human rights organizations and cripple independent civil society groups. The new government is continuously increasing repression until the basic freedoms of the people are almost nonexistent.

This map shows where journalists are imprisoned; as the colors darken the number of journalist prisoners increase. In 2015 there were approximately 11-25 journalists imprisoned in Egypt. As indicated by this map, Egypt is one of the worst countries in regards to arbitrarily arresting its citizens.Picture 1

Rights groups have documented the crackdown on freedom of the media in Egypt since Morsi’s overthrow in 2013. After the military took over the country the state closed news organizations and arrested a growing number of journalists. In 2016 Egypt’s prisoner count increased from the previous year. In 2016 a court sentenced three journalists to three years in prison, which sends a dangerous message in Egypt today. This ruling shows that journalists can be locked up just for doing their job: telling the truth and reporting news to the public. It also shows that there are judges in Egypt who permit their courtrooms to become instrumental in the increasing repression of politics and propaganda. The number of journalists imprisoned in 2016 is the highest it has ever been since 1990.

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From July 2013 – January 2014 there were a total of 3,143 deaths in Egypt. An Interior Ministry official reported in July 2014 that authorities arrested 22,000 people over the last year, but the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights claimed the number of people arrested was closer to 41,000. At least 90 of those arrested in Cairo and Giza died from inhumane conditions – lack of reasonable health care and torture – in the first 11 months of 2014. The majority of these deaths resulted from protests where civilians and authorities clashed. The police have used a new law, Law 107, which is heavily repressive on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions ad Peaceful Demonstrations to arrest political activists because they didn’t seek advanced permission to do so from authorities. Under the international human rights law, the Egyptian government has the right to regulate how a public space is used for demonstrations by requiring reasonable advance notification. This does not mean, however, that if the organizers of the demonstration fail to give advance notification, they should be subjected to criminal sanctions that would result in fines or jail time. The Egyptian government has made it clear that it will not stand for dissent through the numerous attacks on civil rights groups and the arrests and prosecutions of group leaders. Almost three years after nationwide protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak, security agencies feel more empowered than ever and are still focused on crushing the rights of Egyptian citizens to protest their government’s actions.

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Since Mohamed Morsi was overthrown, there have been 60 or more journalists assaulted, 70 journalists arrested, 11 journalists imprisoned and 7 journalists killed. These statistics only make up a portion of the total number of prisoners today. Sometimes there are signs of President al-Sisi softening his stance on freedom of expression and freedom of the press; but for every positive decision he makes, there is an opposite reaction.

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The Egyptian Social Solidarity Ministry made a public announcement saying all non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) must register with the government or else their operations in Egypt would be considered illegal. By have the NGO’s register with them, the government gains power to freeze their assets and shut them down if they feel it necessary. This new policy takes away these organizations’ independence and ability to remain critical. The government then amended Article 78 of Egypt’s penal code, which allowed them to punish any groups – NGO’s included – who accept foreign aid to carry out acts that went against the interest of the state with life imprisonment. Considering how the new Egyptian government increasingly interprets any criticisms as attacking the country, it’s clear the amended Article 78 may be used against human rights groups, civil society activists, etc.

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Is Tourism Helping South Africa?

I love to travel. I have been to countries across the world, but I have never been to Africa. I hear, however, the scenery and the animals are to die for. Whenever I go to another country or another state, I always think about the effects I generate by traveling there. I look at the luxurious resorts on tropical islands and think about the surrounding community and how these titanic buildings affect them. I’ve always been curious if tourism can be used to help the local community instead of taking away from it.

Tourism may have major affects on newly developing countries. It can bring quick economic success but also cause the reliance on that industry to become too high. The countries that thrive the best in this industry most likely have apathetically pleasing views whether they are in the mountains, on a beach or in the forest. Many people debate whether or not tourism helps or hurts a country. Tourism can have positive and negative effects on a country economically, socially and environmentally.

Recent statistics shows that the tourism industry has positively impacted South Africa’s economy. Tourism in South Africa is growing rapidly. According to the Statistics of South (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z) Africa there has been a 10.4% (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z) increase in visitors from 2012-2013. International travelers visiting South Africa grew at an annual rate of 7.4% from 2011-2014 (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z). This number is well above the global average of 4.5% (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z). Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s outgoing tourism minister claims that “South Africa’s tourism industry continues to show good growth, and we remain confident in the ongoing performance and sustainability of the sector.” Tourism contributed 3% to the country’s GDP in 2012, which equates to R93.3 billion ($6,751,085,384). In 2011, tourism created 4.6% of the total employment.

Many tourism companies in South Africa allow visitors to interact and work with the local community, which seems to have a positive effect on the locals and especially the children. South Africa has a lot to offer its tourists in the form of traditional tourism but also volunteer opportunities. There are a lot of national and international organizations that offer volunteer possibilities to tourists. There is even a lodge on the Eastern Cape (http://country.southafrica.net/country/us/en/articles/entry/community-tourism-projects-enus) that sits near one of the poorest communities in South Africa. This lodge allows its occupants to have access to this area and interact with the local South Africans. In this community visitors will be able to help make bricks, brew beer, or stamp corn. and learn about the life of a member of this community. There is another opportunity where visitors may interact with students in a classroom (http://country.southafrica.net/country/us/en/articles/entry/community-tourism-projects-enus), which allows them to get a taste of the education system. If time allows, the tourists may be able to introduce a little bit of their profession to the small community. A lot of the volunteer work offered involves working directly with younger children, who are able to benefit from attention from older role models, especially if they do not receive loving attention at home. Through these interactions, tourists will have a new appreciation of the South African culture and vise versa.

Unlike the other two sectors, however, tourism requires a lot of high-end maintenance that may have a detrimental effect the local communities. In many areas, lavish resorts are constructed to attract wealthy travelers who want the luxury of viewing the picturesque country with the comfort of hot water, expensive food and soft beds. There are very few individuals who would choose to live like the lower class in South Africa. Development in tourism puts strain on countries with limited natural recourses. Land must be cleared in order to construct these large buildings to house travelers, which in turn leads to loss of habitat and overall degradation of the ecosystems. The biodiversity that is lost during the clearing of land threatens food supplies, decreases opportunity for tourism and reduces accessibility to natural resources. There are efforts to bring awareness to this issue in various countries but it’s not a main focus of this growing industry.

Tourism in South Africa has proven to be a current success. This industry has created more job opportunities for a country that has a very high unemployment rate and has contributed greatly to the country’s GDP. A friend of mine has just returned from spending her past summer in South Africa and has gushed about the great impact it has had on her. She often reflects on the South African children she spent time with and tells us of her new insight into their culture. I have come to the conclusion from my research that most of the accommodations are modest relative to other more extravagant resorts in the world and do not strain the natural resources as much. At this stage, tourism does not pose a threat to South Africa. However, once it is the main source for the country’s GDP it will create a reliance on this industry to keep the country functioning and will begin to pose a threat.