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Al-Jazeera Documentary on Egyptian Conscripts Reignites Media War with Qatar

Al-Jazeera Documentary on Egyptian Conscripts Reignites Media War with Qatar

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By Salma AbdAllah, Aswat Masriya

A number of Egyptian TV hosts and journalists launched a campaign against Qatar over a documentary film produced by Al-Jazeera channel that discusses the compulsory military service in Egypt.

The Qatari-owned news channel has recently broadcast a trailer of a documentary entitled “Conscripts” that tells the story of Egyptian youth getting ready to serve out their compulsory military service. The film is scheduled to be aired on Sunday night.

Military service is compulsory in Egypt to all males who are within the age group 18-35, have no younger brothers and are both mentally and physically fit. They serve between 1-3 years based on their educational qualifications and standing.

After the airing of the trailer, several Egyptian news outlets attacked Qatar for “insulting the Egyptian Armed Forces”. The film reportedly features conscripts who give testimonies about the treatment they received during their service, and their in commercial and industrial projects owned by the military.

Veto news website published on Thursday a long report mocking the small numbers of the Qatari armed forces, while comparing it to the Egyptian army. The report also talked about the presence of a US military base in Qatar since 1990s, saying that the channel “revealed its real purpose to destroy the Arab region and dismantle their armies.”

Egyptian ties with Qatar have severely deteriorated following the army’s ouster of Morsi in July 2013, which followed mass protests against his rule as Qatar has repeatedly denounced Morsi’s removal. Morsi is accused of espionage with Qatar for allegedly leaking important national security documents and information on the Egyptian Armed Forces to Qatar during his tenure.

Youm7 newspaper also lashed out at Al-Jazeera and Qatar, and published on Saturday a video titled “A new video that reveals Al-Jazeera practices against Egypt” where it compiled a number of previous news reports by the Qatari channel where it allegedly “spread false news to provoke Egyptians”.

Prominent TV presenter Amr Adib aired on Saturday night videos of both Qatari and Egyptian armed forces on his daily show on ONTV channel, as he compared them and made a mockery of the Qataris.

Adib called the Egyptian authorities to respond to the Qatari channel while pro-regime host Tamer Amin said on his show at Al-Hayat channel on Friday that Al-Jazeera seeks to destroy the Egyptian army, alleging it had done the same with the Iraqi and Syrian armies.

Privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper also participated in the campaign with a report on Thursday that claimed that Al-Jazeera relies on “fake videos and statements in its war against the Egyptian state,” stressing that the Qatari channel can’t “shake the Egyptians’ confidence in their army.”

The movie reportedly features the journey of conscripts starting from the medical examination, the initial training period and their life at the military unit, until their return to the civil life.

Meanwhile, large numbers of social media users have lashed out at Qatar and started a storm of mockery on Twitter of Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Another hashtag was also used to praise the Egyptian army; both of which were among the top trending hashtags in Egypt on Saturday.

Over the past few years, a number of Egyptians started to organise against mandatory military service, and founded the No for Compulsory Military Service movement in 2009.

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Aswat Masriya is a Thomson Reuters Foundation-sponsored website that covers Egypt's transition to democracy. en.aswatmasriya.com

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