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Reporting Live From Egypt: Western Journalists

September 5, 2013

By Ahmed Kadry

As I walk into my house every evening after work, I am almost always greeted with the blaring sound of an Arabic news program or political chat show, with my family duly attentive to every word being spoken, or more often than not, shouted. They barely notice as I walk in, until Dad looks up and says something along the lines of “Did you see what the Brotherhood did today, those sons of dogs?” while my uncle eagerly nods in agreement with a stern look on his face which I translate into “If I had a gun, I would shoot them myself.”

Unfortunately my family is neither unique nor immune to the current stranglehold the military led Egyptian government currently has on media narratives on Egypt’s tumultuous political climate. Egyptian households across the country, and indeed, in my case, as far as London, are all tuning in and receiving the same message: the Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists, we as Egyptians must stand steadfast against them, and Western media are puppets of Western governments who support the Muslim Brotherhood because they want to see a weak Egypt that they can control.

Pro-Muslim Brotherhood channels have been shut down, most notably Al Jazeera, with their journalists even being arrested and later deported, while other channels that were previously gaining a reputation for hard-nosed journalism and healthy debate over the past three years, now toe the military’s agenda and blend in with the “terrorism” narrative of every other channel and newspaper.

Amidst this siege on the media and growing anti-Western sentiment, Western journalists continue to find it difficult to do their job since Morsi’s ouster on July 3. That is not say they did not find their job difficult under Morsi, or even Mubarak: they did. But as almost every single facet of Egyptian media are today heating up the angst over western spies and a US backed Muslim Brotherhood, it becomes obvious why their combination of being journalistsand of Western origin has presented upgraded or new challenges for them to over-come.

Matt Bradley, Middle East Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, who moved to Egypt in January 2009, and carried out his work under the regimes of Mubarak, Morsi, and now the military backed interim government, notes that western journalists are currently being labeled as uninformed, “and what they mean by ‘uninformed’ is that Egyptians don’t understand why Western media are not using the same type of language that the Egyptian media are using. And it makes sense when you see the Egyptian press who are almost insanely hostile to the Brotherhood and make up rumors that are completely nonsense. And so when English speaking Egyptians look at Western media, they expect to see a similar narrative, but they get a dramatically different narrative when they don’t read, for example, that the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda are the same group.”

Bradley notes obvious frustrations. For one, he has reduced the frequency with which he goes to cover protests due to the hostility he has received in recent weeks over his profession combined with his nationality, with his Egyptian colleague being able to blend in, “whereas I stick out way too much.” There has, however, been one major upside. As a result of the military being keen to show their support base in Egypt and have a much more visible presence in politics, they now have a military spokesperson who Bradley can contact directly, whereas prior to July 3 “it was impossible to get hold of anyone in the military.” They even flew him in a military helicopter so he could get a bird’s eye view of pro-military supporters. Read more in the Huffington Post.

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