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Feb 08 2014

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compare and contrast

Foreign Secretary William Hague is apparently concerned about press restrictions in Egypt. He has reportedly urged the interim Egyptian government to demonstrate commitment to free expression.

The press release on the gov.uk website says:

Speaking today about increasing restrictions placed upon journalists and the media in Egypt, Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

  • “I am very concerned by restrictions on freedom of the press in Egypt, including reports of the recent charging of Al Jazeera journalists, two of whom are British, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane.
  • “We have raised our concerns about these cases and freedom of expression at a senior level with the Egyptian government in recent days. I will discuss these concerns with other European Foreign Ministers at the European Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, and we will continue to monitor the situation of the journalists very closely, and raise them with the Egyptian authorities.
  • “The UK believes a free and robust press is the bedrock of democracy. I urge the Egyptian interim government to demonstrate its commitment to an inclusive political process which allows for full freedom of expression and for journalists to operate without the fear of persecution.”

So, the UK Government believes that a “free and robust press is the bedrock of democracy”.

I agree.

Last weekend’s Guardian newspaper reported on the visits they had from and the conversations they had with Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood and colleagues back in June and July of last year when the Snowden revelations were just starting to cause some ripples.

That article says:

In two tense meetings last June and July the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, explicitly warned the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, to return the Snowden documents.

Heywood, sent personally by David Cameron, told the editor to stop publishing articles based on leaked material from American’s National Security Agency and GCHQ. At one point Heywood said: “We can do this nicely or we can go to law”. He added: “A lot of people in government think you should be closed down.”

It goes on:

Days later Oliver Robbins, the prime minister’s deputy national security adviser, renewed the threat of legal action. “If you won’t return it [the Snowden material] we will have to talk to ‘other people’ this evening.” Asked if Downing Street really intended to close down the Guardian if it did not comply, Robbins confirmed: “I’m saying this.”

Perhaps Hague should have a word with Cameron. They really need to be more consistent. If freedom of expression is vital in Egypt, I submit it is equally vital in the UK.

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