Both bloggers and the military played important roles in the Egyptian uprising of 2011, but the two groups are not at odds.
During the January and February protests in Cairo, people were often heard chanting the slogans the army and the people are one and The army and the people are one hand. But now, a military council is in control of Egypt, and will be until April 2012 presidential elections.
Since President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, Egyptians have loudly criticized the slow pace of national reform. Fearing further unrest, the army has exerted its influence over a restless populace, and reports from Egypt indicate that the military is trying to silence activists.
The Coptic protest in Cairo on Sunday was the most visible example of the military's heavy-handed tactics. Although not all the facts are known, it appears the army violently attacked the peaceful march by Coptic Christians, causing the capital to erupt in chaos and violence. Twenty-five people died in the event, 20 of them Copts.
The army has allegedly been abusing activists for months. An Egyptian blogger named Maikel Nabil Sanad is currently on day 52 of a hunger strike in Cairo in protest of his ongoing prison sentence, according to Amnesty International. Sanad, who has spent much of his jail time in solitary confinement, was sentenced to three years in jail in August for insulting the army on Facebook.
A military court and subsequent appeals trials attested that the blogger spread lies and rumors about the armed forces on the Internet.
“Sanad’s trial has been rife with flaws and unnecessary delays, and the decision of the appeals court for a retrial brings him back to square one, cruelly toying with his life,” stated Amnesty.
“The charges against him must be dropped and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. He should never have been tried in the first place, let alone before a military court. Forcing him to face the same unfair proceedings all over again is especially cruel given the frail state of his health.”
In a July edition of This American Life, a protestor and blogger named Ali Sobhi detailed how he was detained and brutally beaten by the army in Tahrir Square weeks after the revolution.
The army was there, and they were arresting people, the report said. And along with the army, there were also men in ordinary clothes with sticks, beating protesters. In the old Egypt, it would have been immediately clear what was going on. The men with sticks were thugs, working with the authorities. [Sobhi] wasn't used to seeing thugs with the army. The army that had sided with the people, and refused to attack them during the revolution. He was used to seeing thugs with the police. This was new and disturbing.
The army filmed Sobhi and his friends, claiming they were conspirators. The army made the boys pose with weapons and guns so that they looked like criminals.
This type of manipulation will undermine whatever progress Egypt makes in the post-Mubarak era.
In Iran, there is a similar silencing of opposition voices. Actress Marzieh Vafamehr was sentenced to a year in prison and 90 lashes for appearing in the film My Tehran for Sale. The film was banned in Iran after its release because it cast the country in a negative light. While Iran has remained silent and official charges are unknown, Vafamehr appears in the politically charged film without her headscarf and her character drinks alcohol, a crime which is punishable with 80 lashes in Iran.
As producers of the film 'My Tehran for Sale' we would like to express our deep shock and sadness at the sentence imposed by the Iranian government, Australian producers Julie Ryan and Kate Croser said in a statement Tuesday.
Ironically, “My Tehran for Sale is about an Iranian actress who is jailed and beaten for acting immodestly. The film was first shown at the Adelaide Film Festival in 2009, and was never intended to be released in Iran. Bootleg copies of My Tehran for Sale made their way around the country, provoking the government's ire.
If Vafamehr is held solely on account of the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression, she should be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty said in a statement.
Vafamehr has appealed the sentence and Granaz Moussavi, the film's Iranian-Australian director, insists that the production team all the necessary permits to film in Tehran.