Problems on hold
I have written more than once to warn against the indiscriminate use of social media as source of information or news. As the name suggests, social media offers Internet users invaluable opportunities to interconnect on the personal and business levels. But when it comes to information, news, or as a media space, social networks are double-edged swords, even time bombs in not a few cases. Social media may be beneficial for critical minds that do not take online posts at face value, but weigh and repeatedly double-check information or news for credibility and accuracy. The non-discerning, however, prefer not to exhaust their minds, but gulp whatever is posted on social media without question or scrutiny. They then rush to repost it as unquestionable fact for friends and acquaintances to read; not only that, but bloggers have no qualms whatsoever about adding their own spicy comments and tidbits, spreading the elaborate misinformation which may in effect defame or smear ordinary individuals or those in authority. In such cases, social networking websites serve to mislead and cause great damage.
A news item printed in the Cairo State-owned daily al-Ahram on 16 August 2019 triggered a typical response on social media. The news came under the title “Export of banknotes raises questions”. It said that the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) had issued a decision during the first week of August to regulate the importation and exportation of banknotes among banks operating in the Egyptian market. Al-Ahram said that the CBE’s decision required banks to apply every January for license to practise this activity. The CBE’s decision was posted on social media networks by bloggers; it was taken out of context and the soundness of the decision was questioned and criticised by poorly informed bloggers, so much so that they began firing questions of the like: Do banknotes get imported and exported? Do we have enough liquidity for the CBE to export banknotes? This bout of comments went viral on social media networks. Yet, it is pathetic, exposes blogger recklessness and failure to pursue the facts, and could even work to spread destructive rumours.
The truth behind the CBE decision is simple enough. The activity of importing and exporting banknotes is neither strange nor new; it has been carried out by banks for a very long time. ‘Banknotes’ denote foreign currency notes, not Egyptian Pounds. Banks export foreign currency notes that exceed the local needs, and likewise import notes if any are needed to provide adequate liquidity on the local market. The CBE’s decision aimed at regulating this activity through issuing permits for banks to deal with authorised companies that are known on the international scene. This would fulfil disclosure and transparency requirements, and conform with regulations that aim at fighting terrorist activity and money laundering. All these regulations are continuously scrutinised and assessed by international monetary institutions as they review Egyptian economic reform policies.
Whereas the soundness of the CBE’s decision is a source of comfort, the rush by bloggers to defame it without attempting to get to the bottom of the matter was disgraceful. I can only keep up my caution against gulping whatever is posted on social media.
More churches legalised
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli has signed a decision to approve the legalisation of 88 unlicensed churches and Church-affiliated community service buildings. The decision was taken according to the 2016 Law for Building and Restoring Churches, which stipulated the formation of a Cabinet-affiliated committee charged with looking into the status of unlicensed churches.
The 88 churches and buildings recently approved for legalisation constitute the 9th batch legalised since the committee started its work in September 2017. They bring the total number of churches and affiliated buildings approved for legalisation up to 1109 out of a total 3730 which had applied for legality; 2621 still await approvals. The committee has thus completed 30 per cent of its charge in the span of 23 months; 70 per cent still remain. For the third time I say: so little over, so much lies ahead.
25 August 2019