The English-language Daily News Egypt has ignited a firestorm by publishing a piece by US Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) despite concerns over her alleged extremism.
Ultimately, the editors of Daily News Egypt came down on the side of free speech. Bizarrely, they followed up Bachmann's opinion piece with one of their own admitting that there were charges of extremism and racism among the staff and defending the final decision. Some highlights include (emphasis mine):
When I got into the newsroom Tuesday morning, a heated discussion between my colleagues was ongoing about whether or not to publish Michele Bachmann’s piece (which was sent to us by her office). Most of the young democracy-passionate reporters were vehemently against publishing her, very few were for it, and our Opinion editor was quite wary about doing so. “We will be attacked for this,” I was told. “She is an extremist, racist woman, and we should not give her space in our paper,” some declared. “We might as well give space to Tawfiq Okasha,” a voice shouted.
The time of Morsi’ reign seems to have faded from our memories. The more they had air time and media space, the more the replies and counter-arguments flew their way, and the less popular they became. But alas, it seems we are in a time where we can only either kill or boycott our opponents – make them “not exist” or act as if they don’t. And what good would come from acting as if this woman doesn’t exist in Congress, elected by many, supported by many? Isn’t the correct thing to do to publish her, argue against her ideas, and bring her down through dialogue? Again, she is not an Okasha or Beck, she is a US congresswoman who is meeting with our de facto leader Al Sisi, and our interim president in an official capacity.
Free speech is an intricate part of freedom, and publishing opinions that stand for everything we abhor maybe an unpopular choice but it is how we choose to contribute to the dialogue in this country.
In a world where even the most biased reporters attempt to pass themselves off as "objective," the Daily News Egypt's position is striking. It is telling that the editors found Bachmann someone necessary to deal with because of her political title as opposed to someone like Glenn Beck, who is wrongly dismissed as someone with no influence.
Despite that oversight, the honesty from the Daily News Egypt is oddly refreshing. The paper admits that they perceive Bachmann as an extremist, but they acknowledge that she is a legitimately elected politician in America with whom they should engage in free debate.
It is noteworthy that the publication went forward with the opinion piece submitted by Bachmann's office (about declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization) without censorship. Although the editors label Bachmann as an Islamophobe, they accuse her Islamist detractors of being secular-phobes. Most importantly, they stood by their decision to give her a voice in Egypt in the face of overwhelming criticism.