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