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Opinion: The Egyptian media’s one-way traffic | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A picture taken on January 22, 2013 shows Egyptians walking past posters of Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef outside a theatre in Cairo. (AFP)

No one was surprised when an Egyptian TV anchor interrupted her guest to enthusiastically announce that the American people had begun to revolt against President Barack Obama. No one laughed when an Egyptian daily newspaper said that Obama has a stepbrother managing the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s investments. No one rolled on the floor laughing when the Egyptian media marketed the claim that Obama himself is a Muslim Brotherhood member.

Those who laughed at these allegations did so secretly, or mocked them with Twitter hashtags.

We did not see an anchor raise her eyebrows skeptically when she heard the rumor that Obama’s brother may be responsible for the assassination attempt against the interior minister. When some Egyptian media outlets hosted a man who presented himself as Sheikh Sayyid Qutb’s grandson and who spoke of conspiracies the Muslim Brotherhood was creating, no one addressed the issue and it peacefully went by, despite the fact that Qutb never married and never had children.

No one laughed at Mohammad El-Baradei being accused of treason and spying.

In Egypt, laughter doesn’t die and jokes are not suppressed. What’s happening is that only the Muslim Brotherhood are being ridiculed via Egypt’s media.

Songs like “I would like it, Sisi, if you become my president” is an indication of an active campaign to market the defense minister on the political stage. Work is underway to transform the defense minister into a sacred figure whom no one should come near and whom none should criticize.

Ridicule in Egypt today is one-sided, and directed exclusively against the Brotherhood.

Some news anchors were suspended because they criticized the massacres committed in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. How dare they not engage in the ongoing demonization campaign and instead address the vivid truth that most of those killed were Brotherhood supporters?

Someone wrote that Sisi is a red line and that the atmosphere in Egypt does not tolerate criticism, ridicule, and the violation of national unity. This is how the media figures and writers of Egypt’s current era write. We turned the page of tyranny in the name of religion (or so we thought) and went back to making statements that the army is the protector, the origin of identity and the new star of patriotism.

Currently in Egypt, there’s more censorship on media and freedoms than there was during the Brotherhood’s reign. This is a fact documented by actions and by international watchdog reports. It is accompanied by a wave of incitement, hatred, and terrifying intellectual shallowness.

There’s no Bassem Youssef today to dissect the recent campaign the Egyptian authorities launched against some television channels. Has anyone noticed a judicial source’s claim that the closed channels “turned out to be a supporter of the devil?” These are not the Brotherhood’s words, used to suppress others. They are the words of the military authority which revolted against the Brotherhood’s exploitation of religion.

But there’s no Bassem Youssef to shed light on that. Youssef, who is indisputably a master of irony, cannot find his way to the screen today. And if he does, he’s restrained.

For Bassem Youssef to have been freer during the Brotherhood’s era than he is today is a clear indication that revolutions die.

This column was originally published in Arabic on September 9.