For some reason, this election season seems to be more emotionally charged than is normal (as if anything is normal in presidential elections). Maybe it's that neither of the major tickets for the nation's top spot are the usual pairings of middle-age white guys. Perhaps it's conservative talk radio providing handy sound bites and throwing around accusations of media bias. The growing influence of the Internet and bloggers can't be discounted, either. In any case, newsrooms around the country are more aware of charges of attempting to influence elections at all levels. Hardly a day goes by, it seems, that the Tribune doesn't receive letters or e-mails accusing us of liberal or conservative bias. Can it be both?
In Egypt recently, Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the independent daily al-Dustor, had his conviction upheld but his sentence reduced, for publicly questioning the health of 80-year-old President Hosni Mubarek. Eissa's actual "crime" was that such specualtion about Mubarak's health threatened national stability and caused investors to pull out of Egypt.
Eissa was originally sentenced to six months in prison. Prosecutors appealed, saying the sentence was too light, according to an Associated Press report. The appeals court agreed the sentence was incorrect, but reduced it rather than increasing it. Eissa said he'll do his time, but that, "The verdict is dangerous for political life in Egypt. It says it is prohibited to speak about the president. It says political reform is an illusion."
His comments are on target and his story illustrates the need for an unfettered press. When government controls what the people hear and read, it controls their actions. Americans are deluged with news reports. It's the responsibility of each individual to sort through that information to decide what he or she will believe. It's a lot of work and it's imperfect, but it's better than having information controlled or limited by government.