Recent sectarian violence in Alexandria has revealed the accumulated frustrations in Egypt that have so far been hidden and that cannot be treated by official statements that focus on foreign conspiracies or “mental disorders”. Nor have Egypt’s television reports or articles dealt with these issues effectively. The feelings of fear and frustration have become far deeper than to be dismissed by the media and its claim that “we are all brothers and we all love each other.”
Undoubtedly, in the past few months, Egypt has taken some important steps forward but the changes are still in conflict with reality of the media, which still suffers from the legacy of state control since the 23 July revolution, which has caused the media to be firmly subjected to state authority and censorship. Since the state strengthened its grip on the media, official press and television became responsible for the big gap between reality in Egypt and what is presented as reality to the Egyptian public.
A brief review of some major media setbacks has been the poor coverage of the sinking of the Egyptian cruise ship that did not get half the coverage of the Egyptian national football team, which happened to be playing for the African Nations cup around the same time. News concerning the victories of the national football team remained the focal point rather than the tragedy of the cruise ship.
The situation was similar with the crisis of the Sudanese refugees who were killed at the hands of Egyptian police. According to Egyptian state media, the Sudanese refugees were in the wrong because they caused trouble and refused to give up their sit-in. Most recently, state press and television conveniently ignored the comments of President Mubarak who told Al Arabiya that most Arab Shiaa are mainly loyal to Iran.
The latest events in Alexandria were dealt with in the same way as other cases of violence that is they are put across in a brief slide show that is condensed and superficial. The language used that never actually targets the root of the problem and merely provides sweet talk similar to that which has been used since the 1950’s. It is true that Egypt’s media is not the only one that is under state control, however, the new dynamic changes in Egypt should be accompanied by a serious and bold revision of media policies as an important and vital sector.