Level heads continue to prevail in the Middle East, where an Egyptian blogger has been thrown in jail for four years for criticising a major Islamic university and the nation's president.

Abdel Kareem Nabil, who called Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak a dictator and referred to al-Azhar university as "the university of terrorism", was sentenced in a court session that reportedly lasted just five minutes. Amnesty International has responded to the ruling as "yet another slap in the face of freedom for expression in Egypt".

Nabil has been detained since November. At his trial earlier this month he was accused by prosecuting lawyers of "hurting every Muslim across the world". The offending blog - most of which is in Arabic - can be read here.

These are dark days for opinionated journalists. In Iran, a website that criticised president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - accusing him of watching some ladies dance at the Asian Games, among other things - has been blocked for "acting against the constitution and undermining national unity".

In Ireland, meanwhile, the most astonishing precedent of all has been set. A libel case against a restaurant critic for giving a restaurant a bad review has been upheld with damages of £25,000. The restaurant called the review a "hatchet job"; the critic said it was an honest opinion.

Details of the case remain sketchy. Was there evidence that the review was malicious? Were there factual errors in the reporting? Nobody seems sure - and it's hard to find out because of legal restrictions, not least of which is the fact that reproducing the libellous review would constitute a fresh libel of its own. But it seems not.

For once, it feels like we've got it easy in Britain. If we whip up public opinion against the government, we just get our details collated into a massive database for future brainwashing. God bless you, Tony.

(For a fine example of the robust exchange of fair comment for which this nation is justly famous, readers are directed to this incendiary blog, which appears to have touched a nerve with the Sony fanboys.)