Many in Egypt
still dread the month of September. Twenty-seven years ago, the government
arbitrarily jailed hundreds of civil society activists of different political
and religious leanings, including journalists. The capricious crackdown, which occurred
only a few weeks before President Anwar Sadat's assassination on October 6,
1981, by a radical Islamist was spurred by unsubstantiated and politically
The detainees, among them scores of the country's most
prominent lawyers, academics, and journalists, were charged with fomenting
sedition and undermining the regime's stability and violating its "Law of Shame,"
which made it illegal to spread rumors likely to damage the state.
Four editors are due to appear before two Cairo appeal courts
later this month for defaming President Hosni Mubarak and his top aides and spreading
rumors about the aging president's health. Surely, they must have in the back
of their minds the ominous crackdown on the media and political dissenters that
helped lead Egypt
to the brink of disaster in September 1981.