Back in August, I wrote about troubling signs that President Morsi's administration was intent on reining in the press, using both overt methods (like filing charges against Dustour editor Islam Afify) and soft power (like appointing the heads of state-owned newspapers).
Now, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information says it has statistics that add weight to this trend. According to ANHRI, more lawsuits against those accused of defaming the president have been filed during Morsi's seven months than over the entire preceding century.
Investigators have considered 24 cases against reporters and authors for defaming President Mohamed Morsy since his election last June...compared to 14 cases over the previous 115 years.
King Farouk, Egypt’s last monarch who ruled for 16 years, came second with seven cases involving charges of insulting the king. Hosni Mubarak came third with four cases that involved six defendants throughout his 30-year rule. Khedive Abbas Helmy II came fourth with three lawsuits and six defendants during his 22 years on the throne.
These lawsuits are not always filed by the presidency itself, or by officially appointed lawyers for Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, but often they are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The alleged rise in such cases may not speak to a personal vendetta by Morsi against the press, but rather a new atmosphere where these lawsuits are both tolerated and encouraged.