Interviewed March 8, 2012
Namees Arnous is a well-known television reporter and civil society activist in Egypt. During the Egyptian Revolution, Namees was asked to spread inaccurate stories by El Mehwar Television, her employer. When Namees used social media to publicize the channel’s stance against the Revolution, she was characterized as being a foreign agent and receiving money from foreign governments. She resigned from El Mehwar.
Namees then founded a new media production company which includes television, radio and social media outlets. She aims to promote human rights and democratic principles by training individuals in new media. She is currently working on a project to produce a new television program aimed at Egyptian women, focusing on issues of concern to them.
Namees has worked on a number of civil society campaigns. These include the Change Your Life Campaign, which aims to encourage women to be independent and the Be Free Campaign, which addresses young Muslim women extremists.
She worked on a civic journalism campaign to cover youth participation in elections in their respective regions. The campaign was broadcast on her NGO’s radio station and website.
Namees was among the inaugural group of the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program in 2012, a leadership program designed to empower and equip women to catalyze change.
Namees has her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication with a focus on Television and Radio.
But in 2009 I decided to – I was working in this channel, but I haven’t space – enough space to talk about a lot of issues happening in Egypt. I decide to make an NGO interested in media, especially online media, as we haven’t enough money and we hadn’t resources to make satellite – TV satellite. So we created an online radio, and I had a program on online radio talking about all the things the channel prevent me to talk about.
And after I resigned, during the revolution I covered as a journalist by – but to the – online radio. Till now I have no job in TV. I still manage the online media because the only way we can express ourself – it’s the only way we can express by freedom is online on the Internet. The independent channels, the independent media is not pure. They have relationship with the regime. Even the Mubarak’s regime or now the military regime, they have a very good and very strong relationship with them.
And they are against freedom of expression. And I believe that the revolution – one of the principles of the revolution, to express the people and the issues free. So I just work as an – as you said, as NGO activist and maybe freedom-of-expression defender.
My decision to resign from my channel in my opinion have a very strong impact. And it’s very enough for me. The audience and the viewers of channel is to believe it, because I was one of the staff who say that everything inside the channel, it’s not true. They are pro-Mubarak and pro-regime, and they just promote lies about demonstrators. And that’s – it’s that – the one impact I believe it’s very important to do.
And what I – what the feedback from the channel to me, it’s hurt me just for two days, because it’s the first channel I work. And I learned a lot about media. And I have a very good relationship with them. But they decided to break all this respect between each other, and they decided to try to save the regime from fallen by the people. And after two days I realized that I have to be happy because I decided to be with the side of the people, not the side of the regime.
A lot of – a lot of posts on my wall on Facebook, they accused me as I am a foreign agency; I am taking money from U.S. So I decided to -- left my job, and to be in Tahrir Square was our job. So I get money to live. But it’s not affect me more, has not left a very bad impact on me, because we all accused by the media. All the youth went to Tahrir Square were accused by the media. And the same the people in my channel said about me, all the media said about all the youth inside Tahrir Square. So I think we all were in the same boat in this big sea, trying to save our lives from this dictatorship regime.
I created nongovernmental and a nonprofit organization in Egypt until 2009. We started by online radio to express ourselves, because the traditional media is the media of states, independent media and the private media not express us. And we register as a civil company and we get funds from U.S. organization. It’s NED, National Endowment of Democracy, which is the first one support us to make a project about media, because my organization is interested in freedom of expression, human rights, democracy and the free media.
We’re interested in training young journalists about free media and professional media and make some workshop for youths and students of universities about democracy and human rights and minorities’ rights. We’re interested in media, more and freedom of expression; interested in online media and social media, have an online radio and web news and web TV, broadcast a lot of videos and discuss a lot of issues. Maybe it’s – we have no limits. We have no red lines. We just make a model – our own model of free media.
With a history dating back to the 10th millennium B.C., Egypt has long played a central role in the Middle East. Egypt is the largest Arab nation and has an influential voice in Arabic and Middle Eastern culture. Egypt has a diverse economy, but has struggled to create sustained economic growth and opportunities for its population of 84 million people.
The country has little experience with representative democracy. From 1956 to 1970, President Gamal Abdel Nasser ruled Egypt with a strong hand, nationalizing the Suez Canal and taking the country into conflict with the new state of Israel. Upon his death, Anwar al-Sadat became president. Together with other Arab nations, Sadat launched the October War against Israel in 1973. In 1979, Sadat signed a groundbreaking peace treaty with Israel.
From Sadat’s assassination in 1981 until the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Egypt was governed by President Hosni Mubarak. For all of Mubarak’s time in office, and for much of the time since his resignation, Egypt has been under “Emergency Law,” which allows the government to suspend constitutional rights, including limiting political activity and restricting free speech. Emergency Law also allows the government to use summary arrests against political opponents.
For four successive terms, Mubarak was reelected in referenda without an opponent. In 2005, under domestic and international pressure, Mubarak proposed a constitutional amendment to allow Egypt’s first multicandidate presidential elections. Because the amendment would have imposed severe restrictions on the eligibility of opposition candidates, opposition groups boycotted the vote. Mubarak claimed to have won the September 2005 presidential election with an official 88 percent of the vote, amid widespread allegations of fraud and vote rigging. The main opposition leader, Ayman Nour, was subsequently prosecuted by the government for forging signatures on petitions and was sentenced to five years in prison, provoking protests from the United States and other democratic countries.
Following the example of the Tunisian Revolution, large protests swept Egypt in early 2011. The military, led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), withdrew its support of Mubarak. On February 11, 2011, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had resigned. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi then assumed power in Egypt. SCAF dissolved the parliament and suspended the constitution.
In November 2011, Egypt held parliamentary elections that were reportedly fair and democratic. In June 2012, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi was elected President, in part because liberal and secular forces failed to coalesce around a single candidate. Morsi’s popularity declined as he declared his orders immune from challenge, removed judicial review processes, and was accused of taking steps towards the implementation of Islamist policies. Conflict arose between those supporting Islamist policies and those seeking a more liberal and secular government. Protests occurred throughout his presidency until Morsi was ousted by the military in July 2013. Muslim Brotherhood leaders were arrested and their camps and offices raided. Until new elections are held, a SCAF-installed provisional government led by acting President Adly Mansour is in control.
In its most recent report, the independent watchdog group Freedom House classifies Egypt as “partly free.” On its scale where 1 is the most free and 7is the least free, Egypt earned scores of 5 in both the civil liberties and political rights categories.