In the third installment of Chronicle of a caged journalist, Egyptian war correspondent Yehia Ghanem explores the physical and psychological cages that imprison us. Read the first part – A trial without a case – and the second – Crocodiles in a courtroom.
I turned around angrily and grabbed the police officer’s arm, almost twisting it. There was no need to push me through that huge iron door into the cage, but he did anyway. He pushed so hard that I stumbled.
As I was entering the old Cathedral of the Ethiopian Church, I felt my heart pounding out of fear that my mission would fail. Two days before, I was contacted by an Egyptian Bishop asking me to conduct an interview with his Holiness Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Church. The main objective was to soften the man’s attitude towards the late Pope of Egyptian Orthodox Church, his Holiness Pope Shenouda. After a while of discussions and argument, I agreed to take the mission on the condition of having two Egyptian diplomats (the press attaché and a member in the African Union Secretariat) with me during the interview. Having the Egyptian Church both in my heart and mind, I, the Muslim, felt a massive weight of responsibility leaning over my shoulders.
In human bodies, the first thing a virus targets is the immune system. As in human bodies, the first thing Dictatorships target is freedom of expression and more specifically, press freedom. If successful, the Dictators’ task would be much easier in controlling their people, in sucking dry their fortunes and more seriously, their spirit.
Being a journalist for the last 27 years, covering issues in my own country, Egypt, and other parts of the world, I have to admit that I always belonged to a generation that believed, until recently, that the sole and pivotal role of traditional media was in effecting social and political change. Of course, such changes could be for the worse, in situations where traditional media failed to be free and independent, as today’s environment in Egypt, or for the better, in situations where media is independent. I must admit that it took me many years to believe in the ability, efficiency and effectiveness of social media to effect such positive changes.