A militarized media in Egypt: a dirty war making many of us blind
By Gigi Ibrahim
August 14, 2013 marks one of the darkest days in Egyptian modern history. Over 800 people were killed by security forces during the dispersal of the pro-Morsi Rabea and Nahda sit-ins that lasted over a month. Ever since, the emergency law has been reinstated as well as a month-long 7pm-6am curfew in 10 provinces, leaving nothing but the television as a source of information and news.
Since the dispersal, over 50 churches have been attacked and burnt in Upper Egypt; however, there has been very little media coverage of these attacks except when the Muslim Brotherhood can be blamed for it. Some police stations have also been attacked and police brutally murdered, as was the case in Kirdasa. This seized the media’s attention because it vilified the Muslim Brotherhood even more than their actual crimes had in the past. The unrest, clashes and deaths continue with the death toll now reaching over 1600 individuals, of whom quite a few were journalists. Hundreds have been arrested and many are still missing.
On August 18, 2013, 38 prisoners were killed in police custody while being transferred to prison. They allegedly died by suffocation through excessive use of tear gas fired into the truck transporting them. The Egyptian media, however, did not appear to be interested in this event since the pictures of the bodies were extremely graphic and suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood could have been the ‘victims’ in this incident. This, of course, is the one thing they are not in the eyes of the masses, especially with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) propaganda constantly portraying the Muslim Brotherhood’s long history of “crimes and violence”.
Sinai, over the past weeks, has also witnessed a fair share of attacks on various security points and police stations. The most recent attack was on August 19, 2013 when 25 conscripts were killed in North Sinai. Almost instantly all media outlets focused solely on the killed conscripts, except Al Jazeera, erasing any possible speculations about what had happened to those 38 prisoners.
The media has been a crucial player in directing and polarizing events as they unfold. State media and several privately owned Egyptian channels such asCBC, Dream, Nahar, Tahrir, Mehwar, Sada El Balad, Qahera Wal Nas, andONTV are all singing the same chorus of SCAF’s version of what has and is still taking place in Egypt since the 30th June. More ridiculously, all of these channels have put some variation of a “Fighting Terrorism” badge permanently on their screens. ONTV and Mehwar even created English-dubbed sister channels in the hopes of spreading the propaganda to western audiences and press, since they have been accused of failing to show the Muslim Brotherhood as “terrorists and monsters.”
Local media has created one-minute promo videos blasting “Egypt is above all” and “The People of Egypt against Terrorism” rhetoric mixed with 2-second shots of YouTube videos showing armed men on the “loose” with Independence-Day background music. This type of propaganda has replaced commercial breaks and actually puts Bush’s “Fight on Terrorism” campaign to shame.
On the other hand, some international and regional media outlets have been picking sides. The most popular examples are Al Jazeera and CNN, who have pre-selected guests that only represent the pro-Muslim Brotherhood camp whilst ignoring the other camp’s arguments. Al Jazeera have been the leading voice of the Muslim Brotherhood camp; they have streamed almost every Muslim Brotherhood event since the start of the Rabea and Nahda sit-ins.
On the international level, CNN has become the American version of Al Jazeera, also pre-selecting guests who are mostly on the Muslim Brotherhood’s side, and failing in investigative, balanced coverage. I even got a call from CNN to comment on the Rabea massacre and when I told the reporter I denounce the massacre, but that I am against both SCAF and Muslim Brotherhood, she said she would call back and never did.
In general, Al Jazeera has been very unwelcome in Egypt lately, and since it basically became the Muslim Brotherhood’s mouthpiece, which resulted in it being viciously attacked by both local media and the general public, the ArabicAl Jazeera channel’s office was closed. Read more in Open Democracy.