There are many incidents that made up the January 25th Revolution, some of which will be forgotten, some of which will remain in our memories, so we can draw lessons from them. One such incident relates to the media perhaps more than anything else, and this relates to the truth concerning the wealth of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
On the 15th of February I wrote an article entitled “How much is Mubarak worth?”, in which I said that the British “The Guardian” newspaper had made a mistake when it estimated the wealth of the former Egyptian President to be around US$ 70 billion, the mistake being that the Guardian had based its story on an article published in the Algerian newspaper “al-Khabr” in late 2009, against the backdrop of a football dispute between Egypt and Algeria at the time. In the article, I concluded that: “The intention here is not to defend Mubarak, but rather to defend our intelligence, which is not being respected by some in the Arab media, when they distort the news. After this scandal there must be another revolution in our region, this time within our own media, because it is an intrinsic part of our crisis.”
Following the article, some of my media colleagues launched attacks from all sides. Some did so without thinking, or going to check the facts, whilst a few recognized the issue, and were fair, most notably the esteemed writer Samir Atallah, and Soliman Gouda in ‘al-Masry al-Yaom’. Here the reader might say: well what is the story?
The story, in all simplicity, is that the Egyptian newspaper “al-Masry al-Yaom” published a news piece on the 28th of March, entitled “The Guardian confesses to mistake in article on Mubarak’s wealth”. Here, al-Masry al-Yaom states that the Guardian readers’ editor, during a visit to the headquarters of al-Masry al-Yaom in Cairo, admitted that the problem with the article on the wealth of Mubarak was that its sources were unreliable. Of course, the aim here is not to challenge the intentions of the Guardian, or its professionalism, because to the credit of its readers’ editor, he admitted the error, and told al-Masry al-Yaom that he was worried that the news would be considered propaganda to promote the revolution. Thus the British newspaper showed courage, through one of its employees, because it admitted it was wrong.
But the most important question here is: what about those who promoted the news without knowledge of the facts, and when their attention was drawn to the possibility of a mistake, they did not go back and check, but instead launched an attack, with the objective of tarnishing the reputation of anyone who refuses to see the media become a tool for political campaigns, or a carrier of lies? It is true that no one possesses the absolute truth, but the media strives to, and recognizes if it has committed a mistake, and then corrects the error. Here lies the difference between responsible media, and media with ulterior motives. Much of what has been published in some of our Arab media is what I always call the process of “news laundering”. This is no less serious than the crime of money laundering, for the former provokes society and misleads it, whilst the latter damages the economy and encourages the spread of crime, so both are dangerous.
Here, my intention is not revenge, but a renewed call for the need to have a genuine revolution in much of our Arab media, so it can be reliable, and build knowledge in the days to come, rather than being a destructive element.