News / Middle East

    Egypt's State-Run TV Aims to Discredit Anti-Government Protesters

    Protesters chant anti-government slogans during mass demonstrations against Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, in Alexandria, Egypt, February 4, 2011
    Protesters chant anti-government slogans during mass demonstrations against Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, in Alexandria, Egypt, February 4, 2011
    Mohamed Elshinnawi

    State-run television stations in Egypt are repeatedly airing an interview with a young Egyptian, who says those who sparked the uprising on January 25 were trained by Israelis in the Unites States. Freedom House, a U.S. independent organization devoted to expanding freedom around the world, denied the allegations that training Egyptians on democratization has anything to do with an anti-government uprising.

    A young woman identifying herself as Shaimaa claims that Freedom House, a U.S.-based freedom and democracy advocacy group, trained her to instigate young Egyptians to launch protests aimed at destabilizing the Egyptian government.

    She says Freedom House also trained members of Egypt's banned opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, Internet-savvy youth and other opponents of the government.

    She alleges the Freedom House training was conducted by Israeli instructors.

    David Kramer is the Executive Director of Freedom House. He said Shaimaa's name does not appear in any training program for democracy promotion, and Freedom House training is on democracy promotion not overthrowing governments.

    "Training is not to help people overthrow regimes," said Kramer. "Training is done to support civil society awareness and activities, and to help those who are pushing for respect for human rights and greater democracy in a country, whether in Egypt or anywhere else."

    Kramer said that while there is no foundation for the Egyptian TV claims, which were not substantiated by any evidence, supporters of the Mubarak government are looking for a scapegoat, trying to point fingers at foreign organizations, instead of understanding the reality behind the popular uprising.

    "This is a result of growing resentment, frustration among the Egyptian people with their government, and they decided to go out in the streets and express that in the clearest ways possible, and they are not being sponsored or supported by outside forces," said Kramer. "This is completely indigenous, this is 100 percent Egyptian, and the Mubarak regime, I would hope, would draw the right lesson from."

    Emad Mekay is a Cairo-based reporter for Inter Press (News) Service. He said Egyptian media are trying to blame the current turmoil in the country on foreign agents.

    "I’m afraid it is working. I went out the next morning and interviewed six people in a barber shop. Five of them said, yes, there must be a foreign hand behind what is happening, otherwise how would you explain the sabotage and all the destruction that is happening in Egypt right now? I have to say that these people were mostly uneducated, lower class, in terms of their financial position, who actually bought that kind of propaganda," said Mekay.

    He said there is clear coordination between the state-run TV and some private TV stations owned by pro-Mubarak businessmen in a campaign to discredit the peaceful uprising.

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