Does the Media in Egypt share the nation’s vision for democracy?

October 2, 2013 7:17 pm

Qatar Chronicle - Tahrir Square

The media in Egypt has not so long ago come under heavy criticism for not transforming into being part of the now defeated democratic course, even to the point where it was seen to be virulently hostile to the new dispensation. The concern-mainly from the civil society and Tahrir square revolutionaries-stemmed from the fact that a large section of the Egyptian media is still controlled by the members or associates of the National Party and as such fell under the direct influence of people who didn’t share the vision of the January 25 revolution. After the fall of the national party, the media found itself still trapped in the analytical thinking of dictatorial control and didn’t appreciate that the whole society was undergoing re-engineering. The media, to a large extent, reported and interpreted news strictly from a Mubarakist perspective.

The media’s treatment of President Mohammed Morsi clear demonstrated that the vestiges of the Mubarak era were still influential. We must not underestimate the drastic need for the media in any newly liberated society to demonstrate its democratic status. Many of us will recall the undemocratic media that incited the failed coup against Chavez in Venezuela as an obvious example of how the media can constitute a threat to democracy. The Egyptian Media too have been caught red handed plotting the overthrow of the democratic state. President Morsi and his party were subjected to a sustained media onslaught characterised by bizarre conspiracy theories, insults and malicious slander amounting to defamation of character. Faced with a media that treat the Muslim majority and its leader with contempt the Freedom and Justice party was understandable to treat the punditocracy equal contempt. What followed was a protracted battle between an old and unreformed punditocracy that is bereft of electoral influence pitted against a new political democracy. Al Jazeera on the other hand refused to join the anti-Muslim brotherhood media and its western echoes but instead elected to maintain a principled and ethical stand by standing equidistant of the belligerent factions. It came as no surprise the criticism of Al Jazeera by the old order.

The environment was such that you either with us or the brotherhood, options which both were rejected by Al Jazeera in favour of fair and ethical reporting. On June 30 Abdel faith Alsisi with the backing of a Shia youth group Tama rod which itself was financed by the rapidly anti-Muslim dominionist Naguib Sawaris carried out a bloodiest coup against the democratic order. The Egyptian Media which was instrumental in boosting the coup elected to downplay the fact that Tamarod was founded by Shia, dominionist and the national party stalwarts to provide a cover for the defeat of the revolution. Al Jazeera on the other hand called the coup what it was, a coup in the strictest technical definition of that term. Soon after, the coup ringleaders began a reign of terror characterise by massacres of peaceful protest, arbitrary arrest and torture of the pro-democracy activist and targeted assassinations of families of the leaders of the movement of restoration of democracy. Al Jazeera was not to be spared. The military junta sought to control the information economy by closing down independent newspaper and TV, kidnapping and even killing journalist. Its more brutal anti press campaign was reserved for Al Jazeera. Realising the global reach of the network, the junta first tried to bring al Jazeera within its control by first dropping threatening leaflets and then promised to protect Al Jazeera reporters if they report friendly. Ever since then a sustained anti al Jazeera campaign has been waged. Egypt is getting more violent. The ruling junta is trying to pinpoint the reasons for this precipitous decline. Children are orphaned, women are battered and murdered on the streets and a significant part of the population is in jail. The economy is in tatters and unemployment is soaring. There are large daily protests throughout the country and the Junta ”mandate” long evaporated.

Not surprisingly, Al Jazeera is blamed for much of this. Al Jazeera is accused of publishing content that influences anti-coup sentiments. There is, we are told, uniformity in people’s response to published information. We are told that the Arab spring it was an Al Jazeera initiative. Those millions of protesters across the region were just gullible folks duped by Al Jazeera. In Tunisia there are even calls for” corrective revolution” to bring back Zine Abedin Ali. It is said that the consequences of what we publish will predictably result in a common response from society. This argument is flawed and designed to mask Al Sisi war on democratic values including free press. Al Jazeera must be defended by all those who care for genuine freedom of thought especially in the Middle East. We have seen the fall of mighty dictators because people are receiving a viewpoint analysis that in not approved by the ministry of information. Al Jazeera is blamed for high crime in Egypt. Aljazeera is blamed for bias by emotion which is perhaps the most common accusation by the Junta. The Egyptian society is mobilised against what is termed” lying Al Jazeera cameras”. Clearly if Al Jazeera has to play it’ role in exposing crimes against humanity and keeping watchdog role over those in power else in the world, then there will be people who will feel aggrieved.

What this means is that Al Jazeera must not view these attacks as demoralising but as a challenge to strive even more towards excellence and accuracy in reporting. A great burden of responsibility has fallen on Al Jazeera and so particularly in these days of media onslaught in Cairo. There worlds and Egyptian people a balanced view of the events in Egypt and Al Jazeera has provided exactly that. The Western media still report the john Kerry lie that Al Sisi restored democracy. What is democracy to Mr Kerry? Removal of an elected president and replacing him with member of an outlawed party, abolish a people ratified constitution and rule by military decrees, close media houses and kidnap and torture journalists, massacres hundreds of peaceful protesters and put to jail more than 15 present of the population and freeze (read steal) personal wealth of the countries businessmen and John Kerry say that’s democracy. The real casualties of the Egyptian crisis are not Turkey, Qatar, Muslim brotherhood or even Al Jazeera. It’s the US and their gulf allies.

Contributed by Jassim bin Sosibo bin Ahmed Al Thani
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