Cairo (May 10, 2011) –
A new initiative to counter Egyptian’s state torture – Piggipedia - is now facing challenges despite going viral on the internet, raising many ethical questions about information sharing. Developed on Flickr by Egyptian political activist and citizen journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy, ‘Piggipedia’ showcases profiles of Egyptian security officers who have committed torture in detention prisons. ‘It is a way of deterring those officers from carrying on abuse further,’ says El-Hamalawy, who was once tortured in these prisons himself.
The Flickr page plays as a database of all convicted officers identified by political activists as their personal photos are revealed in ‘wanted’-style postings. The many comments underneath each photo, from witnessing users on the page, provide a blue print of officers abuses. Some of the photos were taken in demonstrations by activists. But others were uploaded from CDs stolen at the raids on the State Security Service Officers in March 2011, when activists stormed the offices and stole any material that relates to the torture cases.
The Egyptian military forces currently ruling the country have called upon all citizens to submit any found material to the presecutor and judicial system of Egypt, in order ‘to protect both the national security’ and privacy of individuals. No one can verify the online information shared on piggipedia, except the political activists, and no cases of investigations have taken place from the military against those officers in Flickr, apart from the trial of the x-minister of interior and one senior officer. This brings more fear that the military is trying to hide any material that convicts the police.
Intersetingly, Flickr brought down some of these profile only two days after the CDs pictures were uploaded. While there are no ways for verifying these pictures or who they belong to, the compnay justified the action as a case of ‘copyright infrigement’.
In the meantime, several secret police service officers fear their careers being tarnished after pictures about cases of torture have increased mistrust in the larger role of Police in Egypt. Over 4000 Egyptians police officers with have had to resign after cases of harassment from the public. Thousands have marched calling for protecting those officers who have integrity and ensuring their own reputations and rights as citizens are not compromised.
The question that comes to mind is to what extent can sharing profile pictures of Police Officers be ethical ? And in a state that was relying on oppression and torture of political activists, where do we draw the line between uncovering human rights violations, and protecting the rights of citizens privacy and ‘fair trial’ ? And what role could and should content mediators such as Flick play in politically volatile countries like Egypt ? While, many state-security officers with alleged torture black history remain in office; is it fair to prevent Egyptians activists to reveal abuses online? Should YouTube and Flick play the censorship role in addition to the already-existing censoring state arm ?