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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid