The role of the media as watch-dogs, agenda-setters and gate-keepers in Arab states

Document Type



Graduate School of Media and Communications


Egypt is a place where torture is institutionalized. Human Rights Watch calls the abuse of prisoners in Egypt “epidemic,” 1 Amnesty International says it is “common and systematic,” 2 and the US State Department’s 2007 Country Report on Egypt concluded that “police, security personnel, and prison guards routinely tortured and abused prisoners and detainees.” 3 The country is one of several to which the CIA, under the now-infamous rendition program, sent prisoners to be interrogated using techniques too harsh for the agency’s own operatives to administer. 4 So when two Egyptian policemen were convicted of torture in late 2007 and sent to prison, it was a landmark victory for human rights activists. It was also a seminal moment for the media. 5 The case, in which Cairo police used a nightstick to sodomize a cab driver in their custody, came to light only when Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas posted cell phone video of the assault on YouTube, sparking a media feeding-frenzy that ultimately forced the government to prosecute the kind of conduct that has long been condoned.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Harvard-World Bank Workshop