Tag Archives: constitutional change

A quick update on Egypt

TW: 2013 Egyptian Coup

There’s a lot happening in Egypt at the moment, and I don’t think I have the wherewithal to untangle the whole mess in just one post, especially at the moment. That said, there’s one particular part of it that seems particularly interesting: the role of Al-Jazeera in covering the current coup.

(A threatening message dropped at an Al Jazeera studio in Cairo which reads, “A lying camera kills a nation reads a flyer thrown outside Al Jazeera office in Cairo.” From here.)

To provide some background, while it seems absolutely necessary to discuss the recent ousting of the Morsi government as a coup, many Egyptians have articulated why they viewed the consequential harm to the democratic norms in the post-Mubarak era as worth it. This has frequently focused on how Morsi government was influencing the on-going drafting of a new Egyptian constitution, which would have had long term ramifications for their country. That calculation should be for Egyptians to make, not for US media commentators who take a dim view on Egyptians as a whole.

That concept of these events needing to be evaluated and judged by Egyptians unfortunately doesn’t seem lacking among those that view the coup as the correct course. The Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel has come under allegations of attempting to coerce Egyptian journalists into painting a rosier picture of the Morsi government and a more negative depiction of the coup than they perceived to be truthful. One critic even complained-

Sadly, this seems to somewhat track previous questionable behavior by Al-Jazeera. In both coverage of the Malian and recent Egyptian government, Al Jazeera has appeared unwilling to challenge the government’s legitimacy because of some appearance of democratic support. In contradiction with David Brooks’ screed, they seem invested in the success of those somewhat democratic governments that they will avoid embodying one of the greatest democratic forces: a critical media. I hope there are better ways of reminding them of that, however, than with threats.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

And you’ll like it!

TW: anti-Roma violence

So a few people have been abuzz over the recent Hungarian constitutional changes. There’s pretty clearly a precarious political situation developing in that country, as the inability to use existing hate crimes laws to prosecute anti-Roma hate crimes shows (sorry it’s only available in pdf format). I have significant qualms about the agendas pushed at times by Der Spiegel (which has supported the politicized aid stipulations put upon Greece) and by Human Rights Watch (which had many high-ranking members lobby for the Iraq War), but their reporting puts together a rather worrisome picture of Hungary’s current trajectory. Ignoring their prescriptions to the problem (since both organizations have proven all too fallible in terms of determining the correct course of action), their descriptions (which are corroborated elsewhere) tackle very different dimensions of the developing problems.

(A 2012 vigil for a 2009 killing of a Roma man and his son in Tatárszentgyörgy, Hungary, from here.)

Der Spiegel’s coverage is quite clear: one issue is how Hungary is effectively creating an incentive for those educated there to stay and work there for at least a few years following their post-university entrance into the labor force. As Der Spiegel puts it, it’s a “measure meant to curb the emigration of highly-educated workers and academics”. That seems imminently reasonable for a comparatively small country with highly liberalized immigration laws that allow workers to be easily poached by other EU nations. The article briefly lays out a few other changes in the same section of new laws that the parliament has now effectively written into the constitution, but it doesn’t exactly dwell on their purpose or function.

That’s where the Human Rights Watch’s piece comes into play. It doesn’t actually examine the impacts on immigration much at all, and instead cuts straight to the heart of how life within Hungary will be impacted by the assorted other changes. In short, the results don’t sound very good. A few Fidesz (the currently governing party) officials have put out English language explanations which I won’t link to provide them any more coverage, but suffice it to say, they’re claiming that new language defining families with explicit references to sexual reproduction are no cause of concern for queer Hungarian families. They’re claiming that the Hungarian state’s preservation of a vague commitment to provide housing makes up for the de facto criminalization of homelessness. They’re pretending that preferential support of certain religious groups over others is something other than religious establishment. They’ve passed over the fact that among the new changes also allow the National Judicial Office to transfer cases (particularly political corruption cases) to inexperienced rural courts that are rarely reported on.

Many politically-active Hungarians have been raising the alarm for some time now that a tide of antisemitic and anti-Roma sentiment was rising, but that seems to have been part of a larger vision among conservative Hungarians of a better Hungary with “proper” families, no undesirable homeless, and no corruption (within eyesight or earshot). An apparent lack of Jews or Roma was merely one facet of how society needed to be reformed in their view. But what’s more, that vision comes along with laws designed to keep many younger Hungarians stuck there with them. You’ll partake in their utopia, and supposedly, you’ll like it too.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,