Opinion

Is the Media Egypt’s Biggest Con-Artist?

Is the Media Egypt’s Biggest Con-Artist?

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Imagine being blindfolded and instructed to walk. You’re on the edge of a hill and you don’t even know it. Would you walk?

Now, what if the person instructing you to walk pushed you? You would free fall off the hill.

You are the victim that has been free falling. Have you hit rock bottom yet?

Who pushed you? It was the Egyptian media.

The bias of the media has slowly engrained its way into every Egyptian household through televisions, Egypt’s most prevalent medium. The television, which is comprised of mostly state-influenced channels, entails a large following. While many television channels are privately owned in Egypt, the Egyptian government indirectly asserts its influence on the gatekeeping of these television channels. In simple terms, the government can indirectly influence the decisions of television channel owners when deciding what information is revealed and what information is concealed.

You can call it self-censorship fueled to preserve economic interests; that is essentially what it is. Simply put, in Egypt, it has now become standard for television channels in Egypt to value economic interests over journalistic values. Valuing economic interests often entails reflecting government interests, or even acting as a mouthpiece for the government.

As a result, most citizens become either passive or supportive of an oppressive regime. Television programming provides reduced visibility of the current regime’s wrongdoing and instead, exaggerates the opposition’s supposed wrongdoing.

A short, five-minute film released in December 2013, that has since resurfaced, brilliantly captures the impact of the media on Egypt. “Trapped” has received around a million views. The film was banned from certain television channels in Egypt and screened on others.

Egyptian filmmakers Hatem Tag and Omar Rashed’s “Trapped” portrays an old man, actor Abdel Rahman Abou Zahra, living a normal life in Cairo, eating and watching television in the comfort of his own home. As the old man flips through the channels, the monotony of the media takes its toll: each channel features breaking news with accusations of “terrorists” destroying the country.

 

Not only has the media painted and reinforced a false picture in the minds of Egyptians about the current regime, but also has glorified the police and the army. Not only have several Egyptians been fooled time and time again by the media, but they have remained passive at best, silent at worst.

Tag and Rashed’s film literally portrays the trap that has and continues to confine some Egyptians to this very day. The trap is a physical trap. The trap is an emotional trap. The trap is a mental trap. How can the old man’s son, whose framed photos exuberate liveliness through his smile, be a thug? How can he be a terrorist?

The media is Egypt’s very own con artist. It has grown to be adept at lying. It tricks some Egyptians by persuading them to believe things that are simply not true. The media incorporates emotionally charged language as its tool. Its favorite word: any variation of the word “terrorism.”

The people protesting injustice and oppression are “terrorists” according to the media. Journalists reporting on the streets of Egypt were detained for 400 days on charges of having helped the Muslim Brotherhood, a “terrorist” group. What about a mass death sentence confirmed by an Egyptian court for 183 people? The 183 people, “pro-Morsi defendants,” were found guilty of “killing 11 police officers from Kerdasa police station, as well as mutilating their bodies”. Al Ahram also mentioned that the defendants were “guilty of the attempted murder of 10 other police personnel, sabotaging the police station, torching a number of police vehicles and possessing heavy firearms.” Was it a heinous crime? Yes. But, logically speaking, were all the 183 defendants involved in the Kerdasa massacre? Why didn’t the media criticize or even question the mass death sentence?. Instead the media focuses on only one side of the story, the side that often aligns with that of the regime in power.

There is no doubt that political polarization has plagued Egypt and continues to do so. But despite the political polarization that has rifted the Egyptian society apart for the past few years, the media has been aiding in widening that rift. It has become a mouthpiece for the regime, not for the society. Political polarization has become a standard most Egyptian media outlets have become accustomed to report, “pushing state- no less than privately-owned journalism into an abyss of frenzied bias and unprofessionalism” (Shukrallah).

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Such unprofessionalism is littered across most television programs in Egypt, breaching journalistic ethics and integrity. The likes of Amr Adeeb, Ahmed Moussa, Ibrahim Eissa, Tawfik Oukasha and Lamees El Hadeedy, have tainted the image of reputable reporting and journalism. They have come to act as biased political commentators and to be calling them journalists would be a disservice to journalism. The very nature of one-sided reporting, the constant phone calls taken to reinforce or affirm their political commentaries, sometimes avoiding addressing or criticizing political issues or even simply the jargon used to describe political events is by no means professional. So how do these biased commentators succeed in imposing their ideologies on others?

The answer is through simplification, using colloquial language understandable by the majority. Most of these talk shows that discuss political events in Egypt portray a more conversational approach to reporting, which some find more interesting and coherent than the more bland and traditional approach to reporting in which formal Arabic is used.

These biased commentators have adhered relatively well to several important aspects of verbal and nonverbal communication embedded in Egyptian culture. They use hand gestures while speaking, as opposed to sitting rigidly in their seats, making them seem more approachable and warm. They are very emotive, expressive and loud, all of which are important conversational factors in Egypt. And finally, these commentators employ redundancy and reinforcement in their speech constantly and consistently. They repeat phrases and words to emphasize certain points. They take phone calls to reinforce and support their political commentaries. They host guests on their shows that almost always affirm their commentaries, seldom do they ever host critics. Given such reinforcement, some Egyptians have come to believe these commentaries as news, as the truth.  These commentators have given into selective hearing, the tendency of ignoring things they do not want to hear, and in turn have exploited their role as gatekeepers.

The role of journalism, to Egyptian society and journalists,  “has remained bound within an authoritarian mindset, wherein the dominant perception is one of ‘mobilizing’ or ‘guiding’ public opinion rather than presenting the public with the truth” (Shukrallah).  A large portion of Egyptian society continues to believe that free press is simply the presence of opinions rather than truthful, accurate coverage of events. But for the time being, the jargon presented to Egyptians in public opinion talk shows takes priority over any other source of news. For a country in which 94.1% of Egyptians use the television to get news at least once a week, 74.1% are most likely to be interested in watching TV programming on political topics (BBG).

The regime restricts freedom of the press and expression, a fundamental pillar of democracy, and the television media has continually allowed it to do so by preserving its economic interests, or simply out of fear. The retribution for truthful reporting, seen through the previous detainment of the Al Jazeera journalists and current detainment of activists, instigates an atmosphere of fear within the journalism community, leaving journalists with the option of fleeing the country or feeding into pro-regime propaganda.

As a result, extreme self-censorship has become a standard practice for the media, driven by fear and concealed as an act of patriotism in the name of preserving national and business interests. Given the ERTU’s large share in the EMPC and the fear instilled through government crackdowns on the media, it is safe to assume that the media is equally influenced and characterized by both pro-regime propaganda and self-censorship.

Egypt has sparked a war on journalism. Egypt’s democratization has not just stagnated, it has regressed. Democratization has regressed not solely because of the regime intact, but also because of the media that has infiltrated the minds of some Egyptians. It has regressed because of some Egyptians who choose to stay silent out of fear and terror. It has regressed because of some Egyptians who have grown accustomed to trusting these shows as a sole and credible source of information and then disseminating it to others by word of mouth.

Fear is what fuels self-censorship. Government economic and political influence is what fuels propaganda. When combined, when self-censorship succumbs to pro-regime propaganda, these two prove disastrous. It is the media, to use its own words, that “terrorizes” the people; it is the media that “terrorizes” the hope of a democratic society.

Greed and fear has become the motive of the Egyptian media, not journalistic integrity or ethics. Lamees El Hadeedy’s receives a 6 million (EGP) annual salary from CBC, Mahmoud Saad receives a 5 million (EGP) annual salary from El Nahar, Khairy Ramadan receives a 2.4 million (EGP) salary from CBC, among many others. When faced with choosing between remaining blanketed in financial security or adhering to journalistic integrity, these commentators have chosen the former. This is the truth and reality of media in Egypt.

As a result of extreme media bias and the increased prominence of social media, we have now seen a rise in the phenomenon of citizen journalism, journalism conducted by citizens that involves collecting, reporting and disseminating news and information. Citizen journalism has grown to become the Egyptian society’s fighting mechanism against extreme media bias, adding to media diversity by giving underrepresented groups or aspects of society a voice.

Journalistic integrity and ethics is now on life support in Egypt. Journalistic integrity is simply reporting the news without any sort of bias, without any embellishments or downgrading of certain factors within a country. It is pertinent for a democracy to be built upon basic civil liberties such as freedom of speech. It should be sought, not avoided, because it evokes reality. It evokes a reality for which many people have fought for and lost, a reality for which many people have been oppressed and continue to be oppressed fighting for it. Freedom of speech propagates a level of credibility and trust in society that may not be present if there is extreme media bias because it often involves undertones of ignorance and hypocrisy that reverts the paving of democracy.

Mustafa Mahmud, an Egyptian philosopher and author, said: “Freedom incessantly demands its due: it demands responsibility, it demands a burden to be borne; and if it doesn’t receive that, freedom itself will be an unbearable and insufferable burden.”

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  • Nevine

    This is a very well written opinion piece. In terms of journalistic integrity and ethics, that is non-existent in Egypt. Reporters like Amr Adeeb can’t hold a proper interview with anyone that basically opposes their opinion because an appreciation to different perspectives is lacking. I think you can see this with an interview with John McCain.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHgsZPlhqLE

  • Illuminati

    Nour-
    Thanks for a well thought piece. Egyptian media has evolved over the years. It started with one branch, but now has three. The first branch is government sponsored media, which will always carry on official narrative. I see it running its course until becoming unsustainable financially and eventually shut down. Branch 2 was managed by media tycoons whose interests seem to lie with a corrupt regime (im sure exceptions exist). Finally though, we are starting to see more independent outlets, this one included.
    Our hope is that soon enough, independent media, such as this post, become profitable businesses, and grab advertising money from the other two branches. Its then and then only when Nahar TV wont afford to pay Mahmoud saad his few million pounds, unless they want to take a loss!

  • Wessam Ahmed

    This is hardly an article, it’s an opinion piece constituting the very bias you renounce. It’s enough that a video sparked your urge to publish this, considering you say the media pushes people back and forth. Here’s the reality: if you’re actually that vulnerable and misguided, it’s your own fault. It happens anywhere in the world, the government acts as the puppeteer. Anyone with half a brain already knows that, so we don’t need you acting like a little keyboard revolutionary. You’re just fueling the fire.

    People can march in mass demonstrations these days having no idea what they’re demonstrating, and what justice they’re calling for. Justice? I believe that would start with you. Nobody needs you egging people on, the problem with Egyptians is that they always want to oppose, no matter what it is they’re opposing, they just want to oppose. You’re helping them do just that. They oppose out of fear, and that’s not courage. If you really want to make a difference, start helping people unite. You don’t understand the gravity of the situation, and until you do, I suggest you start publishing sensible articles, instead of publicizing whatever gets tossed around in your living room by minds as oblivious as yours. Shame on whoever hired you. Start giving your readers more respect, you do have an audience and they’re not all as gullible as you might think.

    • Illuminati

      What you are reading is published under a section called “Opinion”, yet you act surprised as though you were misled for expecting an article, and getting, instead, an opinion piece. Interestingly though, a google search on article Vs opinion piece renders this result:

      “An opinion piece is an article, published in a newspaper or magazine, that mainly reflects the author’s opinion about the subject. Opinion pieces are featured in many periodicals.
      As for the rest of your comment, the burden of proof lies on you to show us exactly how is this author biased, or more importantly, in what way is she “misguided” and “vulnerable”, and misguided about what exactly.

      • Wessam Ahmed

        The fact you chose to
        start this off by poking fun at how I referred to this ridiculous excuse for a
        post is enough to me. But that’s a discussion for another day, this is
        eventually an opinion piece, and all of this is classified under
        “Opinion”, as you said. So I’ll express mine. I never pointed fingers
        and said the author (if you’d call them that) was vulnerable; I was heavily
        referring to the Egyptian public. I believe I don’t need to open up about the
        literacy rate here; it’s embarrassing as it is. But it’s mainly up to you how
        you choose to get your news, and who you choose to listen to. There will always
        be certain entities endorsed and even subsidized by the government; that is to
        say they’ll be dictated one way or the other. Or would you rather give everyone
        a free pass? We’ve practiced “freedom of speech” here long enough,
        and it’s proven to be a failure. We got men in shiny suits and a prostitute
        with her own TV channel, whom I doubt received an education to begin with, much
        less a notable degree. So what you may have been able to gather from all of
        this is that the Egyptian public is vulnerable, and they’ll believe whatever
        they’re told. In a technological society, we’ve hardly been able to tackle
        issues such as poverty and even public transportation, if you point people in
        either direction, they’ll start booing.

        What we certainly
        don’t need at the moment are people whose voices are audible enough to start
        pointing people in said directions. We’re only getting started under the rule
        of a functional government with fierce opposition that won’t hesitate to
        undermine the foundation of this very nation to reach its purpose and serve its
        own political agenda. And I’m not taking about political parties (that barely deserve
        the title) having a go at each other as in the case of the political atmosphere
        of any republic, I’m talking about all-out war. What we do have at the moment
        is not only public figures such as news reporters and TV hosts who are dictated
        by the government, but also those who brainwash the public step by step. You
        hear all sorts of hocus-pocus on television, and you have no choice but to
        believe it; it’s the television. But if you take a step back and simply start
        trying to make sense of all of it, you’ll realize that anyone who’s made it
        anywhere in this world started by not listening to whatever they’re told. So if
        you’re upset by how the media operates in Egypt — like any other country — I
        suggest you start taking advantage of the position you’re in. Deliver the
        truth, and don’t spend the entire time dwelling on what has been, what could
        have been, and wind up dragging people down that path in the process. The last
        thing we need right now is a smear campaign against the current regime, typical
        to that of the Western media.

        It’s really not my
        responsibility to explain this further; the media-government relationship en
        masse is largely indistinguishable anywhere in the world. Do your own homework.

      • Wessam Ahmed

        The fact you chose to start this off by poking fun at how I referred to this ridiculous excuse for a post is enough to me. But that’s a discussion for another day, this is after all an opinion piece, and all of this is classified under “Opinion”, as you said. So I’ll express mine. I never pointed fingers and said the author (if you’d call them that) was vulnerable; I was heavily referring to the Egyptian public. I believe I don’t need to open up about the literacy rate here; it’s embarrassing as it is. But it’s mainly up to you how you choose to get your news, and who you choose to listen to. There will always be certain entities endorsed and even subsidized by the government; that is to say they’ll be dictated one way or the other. Or would you rather give everyone a free pass? We’ve practiced “freedom of speech” here long enough, and it’s proven to be a failure. We got men in shiny suits and a prostitute with her own TV channel, whom I doubt received an education to begin with, much less a notable degree. So what you may have been able to gather from all of this is that the Egyptian public is naive, and they’ll believe whatever they’re told. In a technological society, we’ve hardly been able to tackle issues such as poverty and even public transportation, if you point people in either direction, they’ll start booing.

        What we certainly don’t need at the moment are people whose voices are audible enough to start pointing people in said directions. We’re only getting started under the rule of a functional government with fierce opposition that won’t hesitate to undermine the foundation of this very nation to reach its goal and serve its own political agenda. And I’m not taking about political parties (that barely deserve the title) having a go at each other as in the case of the political atmosphere of any republic, I’m talking about all-out war. What we do have at the moment is not only public figures such as news reporters and TV hosts who are dictated by the government, but also those who brainwash the public step by step. You hear all sorts of hocus-pocus on television, and you have no choice but to believe it; it’s the television. But if you take a step back and simply start trying to make sense of all of it, you’ll realize that anyone who’s made it anywhere in this world started by not listening to whatever they’re told. So if you’re upset by how the media operates in Egypt — like any other country — I suggest you start taking advantage of the position you’re in. Deliver the truth, and don’t spend the entire time dwelling on what has been, what could have been, and wind up dragging people down that path in the process. The last thing we need right now is a smear campaign against the current regime, typical
        to that of the Western media.

        It’s really not my responsibility to explain this further; the media-government relationship en masse is largely indistinguishable anywhere in the world. Do your own homework.

        • Illuminati

          I did poke you because this is the first thing you did when commenting on the piece.Wonder how it feels?

          As for the rest of your comments, they were too incoherent for me to remotely understand your point. Although it caught my eye that you acknowledged the media’s bias and lack of professionalism- which is the heart of the article you speak against here. You also admitted the most of Egypt’s population is illeterate, which makes them easier victims to a misguided media,but then you proceeded saying that we shouldn’t start ” a smear campaign against the current regime”. While i don’t see any problem with judging any regime, current or former, this entire article was not about your regime!!

          • Wessam Ahmed

            There’s no discrepancy between the points I raised in both of my comments. Why you find them “incoherent” or further unclear is beyond my understanding. The article, prima facie, is aimed at underlining the so-called ploy the media (and the government in this case) is devising against the public. That’s the title. The author sheds light on how the government plays a big part in that, which is the same crap the Western media throws around everyday with the knowledge that their every move is dictated. The jailings, “lack of freedom”, and how it’s so unjust that those who have no purpose but to disdain the country and its government are facing their demise. Long story short: if all “freedom of speech” is going to bring us is people who have no idea what they’re talking about in the spotlight, I don’t think we’re quite ready for it. The Egyptian people simply don’t have the resources to actually step up to the plate, all we have right now is people indulging their own enthusiasm like the author here. We get it, the system doesn’t work. Now let them do their job. If all of this gets tossed around when the government is “lying” to people, imagine what would happen if you were told the truth. Find your own truth and stop complaining about there being no transparency, you’re not entitled to that transparencyuntil you can actually contribute.

          • Illuminati

            Yes, I’m sure its beyond your understanding. never mind buddy,, you win 🙂

          • blah blah blah

            Well then, since he won… I suppose that until it is proven that his argument is invalid, this article does not hold any credibility and should not be taken seriously.

          • illuminati

            No one can force you to take it seriously. By all means feel free to disagree and provide counter evidence. You can argue the opposite too, or go for a dialectic. But whatever you choose to do, please, have a point!! Please make sense! Please argue against the idea with another, for if you can’t, then you are not using a very essential part of the body; the brain!

          • blah blah blah

            Well, it seems to me like you’re the only one here who can’t understand it…

          • Illuminati

            hahaha, ok kid !

          • 123xxy

            All what you said Wessam is perfectly right. Don’t waste your time with Mr Enlightened, he forms part of a group of people who have a “complex” called free speech and can’t see anything beyond this, its their little own world! Unfortunately these days (kol man habba wa dabba) like we say in Egyptian, can write anything regardless of true or not, logical or not, offending or not, valuable or not….. such a waste of time!

  • 123xxy

    Nour, all what you have been blaming the media for, really should be applied to you. You are obviously so young and enthusiast from reading American biaised media against oppression…etc that you can’t see reality. Have you forgotten how the US has treated the “peaceful demonstrations” in the last few months? Have you complained about it? Can you make an effort to really see where Egypt has fallen to since the revolution against “oppression”? Be honest, would you sacrifice your life or your brother’s, father’s…. for the sake of more “freedom”? noting that you already have some freedom despite openly criticizing this “bad regime” which you call regime rather than government elected by the majority of Egyptians. Do you really know what’s happened in Kerdasa? Would you have the same feelings if your brother/father/husband was among the officers massacred and mutilated in Kerdasa? Egypt who is trying to recover its economy (you obviously are well off that is why you can’t understand what a good economy means for the general population) these criminals that you feel for are destroying and wasting billions of pounds affecting ALL Egyptians, and you come and asks the Courts to be lenient and spending even more for them!! Stop listening to the American media and look at the reality of the situation in your country if you really love it and want it to improve. Your report won’t help but hurt Egypt and enhance the game of its enemies. Once people have food and security, this is when “full democracy” can be claimed. I wish and hope you revise yourself, as Egypt need its good youth that sincerely loves it .

    • Asma

      ^Perfect example of what propaganda does to alter how people perceive the reality in front of them. How can you believe that these sporadic, random instances of violence and destruction are more horrible and destructive to Egypt than the decades of mismanagement of the country’s wealth (talk about billions of pounds wasted!), the total negligence of the country’s infrastructure in terms of road safety, hospitals, decency of life, etc, that have caused so many millions of people to live impoverished, painful, wasted lives in Egypt in the past half century of unquestioned military regimes.

      Freedom of the press, the ability of journalists to discuss and analyze and criticize their government’s policies with openness and fairness and honesty, is what pulls countries UP by holding them to a higher standard. It doesn’t harm them. It makes their governments more responsive to the people’s needs, more accountable to keeping their pledges and promises, and thus better and stronger.

      • 123xxy

        I am sorry Asma to say you are short sighted. But you are right the American propaganda have altered the way you perceive the reality you are supposed to see. How long have you been living there (if ever) and are you talking from what you see and are able to analyse or you are one of those “so-called” experts making assumptions? Firstly these are NOT “sporadic, random instances of violence”, these are the planned killing of thousands of people. Secondly, What “decades” of mismanagement and a half of century of poverty has to do with the current government of only 9 months Nour was criticising? Isn’t exactly this what this government with the short of funds inherited he is trying to repair while trying improve the life of the less fortunate? Do some research and you will see how much has been done in such a short period to recover from the “decades” of mismanagement while combatting new destruction. You are rights that criticising the actions of gov. will improve the standards but you can’t ignore priorities when thousands of people continue to get killed. I have the feeling that you have the wrong notion that just because Sisi was a military his regime must be bad. This is another example of how propaganda has affected your views. Read history and you will know that this is not always the case. Moreover consider 2 facts: the majority of Egyptian men have been in the army and most of the current ministers are civilians!! Shall we prohibit most of them to run for gov. positions? Pls inform yourself of what “military regimes” have done before calling the current Egyptian gov. a military regime. There is a much better way for consideration: Give priority for people to live (as EXTREME freedom of press is useless for the dead) and do PROPER search to avoid improper and harmful criticism. This would include ascertain the will of the vast majority of Egyptians!

    • Illuminati

      Why don’t we cut the crap. The author contends, and rightfully so, that the Egyptian media is biased, unprofessional, and unethical. She gave not one, but plenty of examples on how media institutions choose to only the government’s narrative and nothing else. She gave you examples on how fair reporting should look like and explained why Egyptian media reporting is far from it….Now, you can argue otherwise, and you can also claim that Egyptian media is fair and balanced. It would be interesting though to see how you would prove that. As for asking the author if she reported on police brutality in America, I just fail to see how is this relevant to this topic.

      • 123xxy

        Have you called yourself illuminati because you think you are an exceptional “enlightened” person?? You are not! Actually very far from calling yourself intelligent. I have read some of your previous comments on other topics and they are all so futile and irrelevant that I won’t waste my time with you. Some people need more time to grasp the meaning of what they read, you are one of them! Although I am not so sure you will succeed to understand, but try to reread few times Nour’s report and my comments and you may see what all the discussion was about.

        • illuminati

          Yes, I call myself so because I’m enlightened, maybe you could learn a thing or two from me. As to the rest of your comment, I won’t dignify it with an answer because its beyond idiotic.

          • 123xxy

            Yes it is beyond your comprehension, Mr retarded.

  • agenius

    let me tell you what I’ve learned, darlin’:

    1 there *are* no facts, ONLY opinions
    2 only a fool is fooled by the media

    having said that, keep on questioning everything. you and your like are your country’s greatest hope, even if it doesn’t know it yet

  • h7

    Leave the politics for the politicians. Don’t give yourself a headache and just enjoy what You have in life. Be thankful because sisi is a major upgrade to what you previously had.

Opinion

Student studying international relations at American University. Adventure seeker living for good stories and great company. Sometimes likes to blog: http://egypttodayandyesterday.tumblr.com/

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