Debate article Swedish support in the struggle for freedom of speech

Failure for Swedish support in the struggle for freedom of speech – From Swedish newspaper debate; Since the beginning of the Arab spring, some Swedish writers together with Swedish Culture Center in Cairo, (founded by Swedish-Egyptian Sameh Egyptson,) worked together with representatives of the “Arab spring” in order to strengthen freedom of speech and the democratic process in the arab world and especially in Egypt.

Crowds gather in the Shubra neighbourhood of Cairo preparing to march to the Maspero state media building on the anniversary of the killing of 23 protesters and one military officer. (Daily News Egypt) See link below for more.

Why does Sweden say no to the development of democracy in Egypt? The process needs money, but Swedish financial support is absent for an upcoming conference in Cairo that will strengthen the work of democracy and freedom of speech.
In October last year, a conference was helt at the Swedish Culture Center in Cairo, Egypt, on the Swedish political model. Both Swedish and Egyptian party officials met and discussed the political system in Sweden. All participants declared a need for more information on the Swedish system. In November, we visited the Egyptian Journalist Syndicate and the Writers Union in Cairo and discussed the need for a writing exchange between our countries. In early summer, we had a meeting in Stockholm with the chairmen of the Egyptian writer- and journalist unions and agreed on the agenda of an international meeting in Cairo.

We have throughout history learned that a fall of a dictatorship does not automatically mean democracy, and that the countries concerned can end up in civil war or in another type of dictatorial system. The battle for the future of the Middle East and the Arab world is now in full swing between the Conservatives and the modern. The struggle between these forces can mean violent civil war or a peaceful process of democratic methods containing elections and dialogue.

The conservative forces have gained support from the old system; oil producing states and also by the Americans to maintain the global economic order. Many democracy advocates consider that they have been abandoned. While fighters for democracy are struggling to reach the public with information on freedom of speech, plurality and human rights through a new satellite TV channel, several religious conservative TV channels are launched every month with funding from rich oil tycoons and Christian communities in the United States.

Looking at the range of the media flow that reaches most people in the Arab world via satellite, you may believe that the fight is between Christianity and Islam. Fighters for democracy are limited to using free services such as the Internet and social networks which do not reach the majority of the population.

Swedish Culture Center in Cairo has in several ways tried to help the democratic forces to launch the aforementioned TV channel, but so far, nobody has shown interest of democratic institutions or countries to support the project.

In the 1990s, Sweden took responsibility for strengthening the cultural contacts in the world in their struggle for enlightenment and freedom of speech. In 1992, over 300 authors and translators were gathered on a conference conducted by a Swedish-Russian initiative. This resulted in a joint international center in Sweden.

Two years later, over 400 journalists and authors from 30 countries came together at a second meeting, this time on Swedish-Greek initiatives. It resulted in an international center in Greek Rhodes. A third conference in Cairo is an excellent continuation of this, we think, and it is now scheduled for November 23, 2012. UNESCO encourages the initiative and will fund all Egyptian and Arab participants at the conference with $25,000. The Swedish Embassy in Cairo is also very positive and has invited delegates to a reception at the embassy. Unfortunately, the Swedish Institute has rejected our application for assistance to Swedish participants.

With this in mind, we were certainly surprised when we heard Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, speaking in the Parliament on the Swedish support to the democratic development in Egypt and the Middle East. It was also touching to hear our king, [Carl XVI Gustaf] welcoming Johan and Martin [two journalists who have been held in Ethiopian prison.] While poor countries like Zimbabwe and Pakistan are sending representatives to the conference, Sweden says No. How do Sweden support democratic development, by saying no?

Signed by Sameh Egyptson, Director of the Swedish Culture Center in Cairo; Peter Curman, Initiator of the international writers’ and translators’ centres mentioned in the article; Per Gahrton, Chairman of the think-tank “Cognito.”
[Source: Debate, Culture, Svenska Dagbladet Oct. 12, 2012]

Here is the origin of the violent events outside Maspero TV building in October 2011

On October 9, 2011 on the first Sunday after a military crackdown on a protest against the burning of a Christian community center killed 27 people. Coptic Christians were gathering to pray for the dead. The killing occurred outside the Egyptian state television, according to eyewitnesses and Human Rights Watch claim the military used excessive force against the demonstration by the Coptic Christians over what they see as the failure of authorities to investigate the burning of a Christian center, which was reportedly set to be converted to a Christian church.

Read more on Human Rights Watch, Oct. 10, 2011
Human Rights Watch, Oct. 25, 2011

© 2012 Jonathan Axelsson
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“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1881-1955)
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