Op-Ed: It's Tom and Jerry, not Sisi regime, behind Egypt violence

Posted May 5, 2016 by Ken Hanly
Egypt's Interior Ministry is under fire for police brutality and other abuses but the head of the State Information Service (SIS) Salah Abdel Sadek blamed violence in Egypt on Tom and Jerry cartoons, violent video games and movies.
Saudi King Salman (left) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during talks in C...
Saudi King Salman (left) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during talks in Cairo, on April 7, 2016
Egypt's security forces are considered among the most violent and brutal in the middle east. Of course it is always possible that they spend too much time watching Tom and Jerry cartoons, playing video games, and watching violent movies.
Sadek said of Tom and Jerry: 'Tom and Jerry' portrays "the violence in a funny manner and sends the message that, yes, I can hit him … and I can blow him up with explosives. It becomes set in [the viewer’s] mind that this is natural.” He noted that young people played video games in which they happily killed and spilled blood. He claimed that youth were "faced with social pressures that push them to resort to violence, which they considered normal and understandable:" While there may be a modicum of truth in the claim that the cartoons, movies, and video games contribute to youth using violence, the whole narrative seems to be to blame anything but the regime for the violence. Not surprisingly, there have been a lot of negative reactions on social media.
The cartoons story is not the only recent incident that is creating reaction against the regime. The Interior Ministry already accused of police brutality and other abuses, published confidential guidelines that aim to neutralize growing criticism as the regime cracks down on reporters. Apparently, the release was accidental and happened after the recent arrest of two journalists at the headquarters of the journalists' union in Cairo. One suggestion was to stop all coverage altogether relating to the murder of the Italian graduate student Giullo Regeni, whose badly brutalized boy was found in Cairo in February.
In a rare public protest, dozens of people were arrested, as they complained about the transfer of two Egyptian islands to Saudi Arabia. Some protesters even called for the downfall of the el-Sisi regime on April 15. However, this week it is Egyptian journalists who are challenging the regime. One reporter said that in the raid on the union headquarters, the police just barged into the building and beat up one of the guards. The reporters want Maj. Gen. Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar the Interior Minister to be dismissed. The leaked memos shows that the ministry believes it should take a hard line and show itself strong.
The memo said that ministry should not "backtrack": “Backtracking means a mistake was made.” Instead, it says, the police should seek to undermine the credibility of the journalists’ union by deploying retired police generals to the country’s influential, and mostly pro-Sisi, television programs, to “explain the ministry’s point of view.” The memo suggests more monitors are needed to watch websites 24 hours a day. Mahmoud Elmamlouk, editor of a local news website said they do not want to be held accountable. The Ministry said the leak was a result of a "technical malfunction." The two journalists arrested were accused of illegal possession of weapons and are being held for 15 days for questioning.
Egyptian journalists held a large meeting at their union headquarters in Cairo in spite of a large police presence. There were around 3,000 journalists present. They called on el-Sisi to dismiss the Interior Minister and apologize for the raid on the union headquarters and the arrest of two reporters. This is the first raid on the regime in its 75-year history. It was not raided by Mubarak. If the demands of the journalists are not met, the group will hold a meeting next week to discuss organizing a strike. The public prosecutor has said the two arrested journalists were arrested for "spreading news based on lies" in addition to the firearm charges mentioned earlier.
El-Sisi has his supporters, as dozens gathered outside the headquarters calling for Sisi to "slaughter" the journalists. With the economy in decline, Sisi may be losing much of his support as he uses strong-man tactics and repression of the press to stay in power.