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Egypt: The intimidation of the media - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I was among those who criticized the Egyptian media in the era of President Mubarak and beyond. I criticized the newspaper al-Masry al-Youm in 2010 when it ran the headline “Today, is Egypt Honored, or Humiliated?”, and I was the first to criticize the Egyptian media, and the Western media before that, for erroneously publishing the fabricated story of Mubarak’s wealth in 2011, a story which one of the senior editors at the British newspaper The Guardian later apologized for. However, today we must defend the Egyptian media!

In the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi demonstrations in support of the Egyptian President’s power-seizing decrees, Islamist protestors raised a banner depicting prominent Egyptian media figures, with the following message written on it: “The sewage that overflowed in Egypt’s houses”! This is a play on a famous headline published in al-Masry al-Youm after the 25 January revolution, eulogizing the Egyptian martyrs, which read: “The roses that bloomed in Egypt’s gardens”. Here we must defend the Egyptian media and its shortcomings, most notably the incitement, provocation, passion and exaggeration that accompanied its coverage of the 25 January revolution, its accusations against all those who were critical of the events, or even those who warned that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to intimidate the Egyptian media today and complete its coup project. If the media is intimidated, the prestige of the judiciary undermined and besieged, the drafting of the constitution monopolized, and the arts and artists terrorized, then what institutions will remain in Egypt? On what foundations could a civil state be built?

I was, and still am, one of the strongest believers in regulatory rules for the media, along legal, ethical and professional guidelines. I am in favor of the rigorous rules found in every respected media domain in the world, but I completely reject the intimidation of the media, and attempts to undermine it with blackmail, insults, and defamation, along the lines of what the Brotherhood is doing, and in the case of Egypt specifically. The Egyptian media’s biggest mistake was to trust the Muslim Brotherhood’s project, and its shortcomings, without asking serious questions. By trying to keep pace with the disgruntled and enraged revolutionary forces against the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian media opted to go along with the loudest voice instead of undertaking its real role, which is to ask serious questions and provide accurate information. At the time, unfortunately, the Egyptian media decided to put the horse behind the cart, not in front of it, and now we see the media itself falling victim to the intimidation of the Brotherhood and the Salafis.

The intimidation, encroachment and attempts to undermine the Egyptian media tell us much about the coming days in Egypt. They tell us that Egypt today is like Iran after the Khomeini Revolution, and that there is a systematic campaign in the country today to abolish all respected institutions, or to render them obedient. This is something that not even Mubarak tried to do, who in the last years of his reign actually granted increased power to the media. Among the main beneficiaries of this increased power were the Brotherhood themselves, who are now portraying all their partners in the current phase as “sewage”, with regards to the media, “corrupt”, with regards to the judiciary, or “remnants and thugs”, referring to all those in Tahrir Square. Who is left? What civil state institutions are yet to be converted into Brotherhood institutions?

What is happening in Egypt is worrying, most recently with the intimidation of the media, which suggests that Egypt is following the path of the Khomeini Revolution. What is more worrying is the Arab campaign of falsification, unfortunately being conducted by media figures and intellectuals, to promote the Brotherhood coup in Egypt, just as the Gaza coup was justified and promoted in the past.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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