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Egypt’s misleading media machine - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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One of the features of the current Egyptian scene- which has witnessed the tragedy of the bloody events in front of the Maspero building, and which has taken on a dangerous sectarian dimension threatening the national fabric and the relationship between the nation’s elements; the Muslims and the Christians- are the rumors and reported statements that today declare the opposite of what is said the next day, and in the process straying from the truth. Everyone is skeptical of everyone, political positions change from one moment to the next, whilst the public remains confused. No one knows what really happened or the reasons behind it, as if there is a misleading media machine seeking to mess with people’s minds.

Approximately 25 died in bloody clashes after Christians marched in protest against the burning of a church or guest house in Aswan. There were several stories reported yesterday, alongside contradictory witness testimonies. The media presented different accounts; we do not know who started shooting, or what the story is with the thugs who appear at every opportunity to turn a peaceful protest into a bloody, violent one. Why was the crisis not remedied from the start in Aswan, and resolved by law to put everyone’s minds at rest? Why were nerves allowed to fray in this way, taking us back in time? What is the story with the media’s policy of confusion, having attempted in some moments to incite without any responsibility, instead of calming the situation?

An example of this misleading media machine was the strange statement that was posted on websites and circulated by the Egyptian media amidst the bloody events witnessed the night before last. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, in an alleged statement to CNN, was reported to have warned the ruling military council against prejudicing minorities, and offered to send American troops to Egypt to protect places of worship and important facilities. This news was circulated and commented upon without any attention paid to the denial by US officials yesterday. Furthermore, these words were not published by any respected media outlets, or even the television network which was claimed to have received the statement.

The alleged words seem illogical because they suggest foreign military intervention, which inevitably would provoke Egyptian public opinion and lead to angry reactions. It appears that this was the intention of the websites that carried and promoted the news, whether they knew it was incorrect or were fooled by it. It was more fuel to the sectarian fire amidst an inflamed crisis with considerable history, and a means of promoting the idea that there are those who want to put Egypt under international protection. If someone thinks for a second they would find these words to be absurd, because no one can put a country of 85 million under international protection and bear that responsibility.

Egypt is experiencing a state of transition like a ship passing through storms, and it needs much wisdom and reasoning in order to reach its mooring. It is natural that after a revolution such as the one which occurred on the 25th of January, demands are coming forth in every form and from every type of group that felt it had been wronged or denied its rights. Among these groups are the Christians, who feel there has been an injustice with regards to the laws that govern the establishment of houses of worship. It is natural that they have concerns when they see the rise of Islamic currents that can move freely after January 25th, and are now talking about an Islamic state. The Christians want the strict application of the law, and strong legislation to criminalize sectarian incitement, ensuring against the escalation of tensions in the manner which we saw.

The road is difficult and it will require facts and transparency. If the task is too daunting and confusing for the current authority, which is running affairs faced with a torrent of demands and protests while the country is undergoing an economic slide that threatens bankruptcy, as international indicators warn, then there is nothing wrong with the government and the military council declaring frankly that their mission is a transitional one, represented in the safe transfer of power through elections, and that the major issues and demands must wait for the forthcoming government and elected president, a condition which would accelerate the handover of power.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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