News / Middle East

In Egyptian Unrest, Media is Battleground

Egyptian television displays the "Egypt Fighting Terrorism" banner during a sports program, August 20, 2013.
Egyptian television displays the "Egypt Fighting Terrorism" banner during a sports program, August 20, 2013.
Al Pessin
In Egypt's turmoil in recent weeks, the media has been a battleground -- with newspapers and television stations sympathetic to the deposed president shut down, and remaining outlets complying with the new government. Meanwhile, foreign news organizations have come under sharp criticism from the government, and many of their reporters have faced anger, and even assault, on the streets. 
 
At one of the many protests in recent weeks, supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi chanted for the establishment of Islamic Shariah Law in Egypt -- a central goal of the Muslim Brotherhood, but one that was not the official policy of the now deposed government it supported.
 
Still, that is exactly what many Egyptians feared, and a key reason so many supported the military takeover last month. 
 
That included shuttering television stations and newspapers that supported former president Mohamed Morsi, leading one protester to defiantly tell the Reuters news agency the movement will prevail even without its media arms.
 
“The media suppression and cover-up they are doing is not going to do them any good," the protester warned. "We are a people who will not accept being pushed. No matter how much you push against us, no matter how many you kill, we will continue to the end.”
 
Social media has taken up some of the slack, providing a way to organize protests and publicize the Brotherhood's views. But the mass media is firmly in the hands of the interim government installed by the military.
 
With a banner reading “Egypt Fighting Terrorism” continually at the top of the screen, the anchorman of the government's satellite channel greeted viewers for the evening newscast.
 
The news was all pro-government, and it played on people's fears of extremism, labeling all protesters as “terrorists” and implicitly linking them to the the killings of 25 Egyptian policemen in a desert ambush this week by suspected Islamist militiamen.
 
“There's no question that demonization is on its way," said Abdallah Schleifer, a former journalist and now professor emeritus of journalism at the American University in Cairo.
 
“But when the Morsi people had access to their own media, they were every bit as vituperative and intransigent," Schleifer added. "Anybody who was against Morsi when he was president was being described as a traitor, infidel. The language was equally vituperative.”
 
And Schleifer said the institutional changes Morsi was making to many aspects of Egyptian society had the potential to do more long-term harm than the current restrictions, which he describes as “transitional.”
 
His colleague at the university, Political Sociologist Said Sadek, said the Muslim Brotherhood has already been demonized, but not only by the media.
 
“People had experienced them first-hand, and they began to feel they are a danger," Sadek said. "And this is what I had been warning the Muslim Brotherhood long ago -- if you continue your policy you will have the people against you, not only the state, not the institutions, the people.”
 
It is a powerful combination -- the experience of a year of Islamist rule and the now constant drumbeat of media criticism.
 
And it has caused something of a backlash in the western press, with many foreign reporters tending to oppose military takeovers and the information campaigns that come with them, and sympathizing with the hundreds of civilian casualties from the past week's crackdown. 
 
The interim government accuses the western media of presenting a “distorted image” of Egypt, that “is far from the facts, biased” toward the Muslim Brotherhood and ignores its violent excesses. Credential applications from new arrivals are being delayed for 'security checks.'
 
“They're shallow and naïve in this sense -- we have a mindset," said professor Schleifer, an American who has spent decades in Egypt, referring to much of the foreign coverage.

"Anybody who is elected in a democratic election automatically becomes a good guy and a democrat. And anybody who stages a coup d'etat against a democratically elected president is automatically a bad guy," he noted. "But the closer people are to the story, the less simplicity there seems to be to it, the less quick to judgment people are.”
 
It is an age-old question whether those who are deep in the details of a situation are the best judges of it, or whether those who come from afar have the better perspective. 
 
And the dispute is likely to go on, with the interim government showing no sign of backing down from its takeover, its crackdown or its media policy.
 

You May Like

AU Takes Action on Boko Haram, Defers on S. Sudan

African Union is moving forward with a request for a military force to stop the spread of Boko Haram insurgency in West Africa; Ban Ki-moon welcomes decision to form a five-nation force More

Mass Protests Held for 58 Killed in Pakistani Shi'ite Mosque Bombing

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims took to the streets across Pakistan Saturday to protest a powerful bomb blast at a mosque in Sindh province during Friday prayers, killing dozens of people More

Williams Wins Australian Open with Straight-Set Victory over Sharapova

The win is Serena Williams' sixth in Australia, and her 19th overall Grand Slam title More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid