Tuesday 22 January 2013

Updated: Egypt State TV Under Tight Control?

More and more reports as of late that Egypt state TV has been under tighter control by the MB. Well, we know that the information minister (a position the revolution was meant to abolish) is an MB member. I can make the following observations as I watch those channels:

1- I can't see big-name opposition members calling or showing up in any of the programs. Many claim that certain names are banned from being allowed inside the building. Here is one sample of some names. The newspaper isn't the most credible, but they cite a named credible source: http://new.elfagr.org/Detail.aspx?secid=1&nwsId=248282&vid=2#.UP69qqFesWU
2- All opposition figures that actually do make it to the programming are either second or third tier kind of names. Their influence on the programming is often usually weak due to lack of name power or personal capabilities.
3- I have not seen a single programme that had opposition-only guests. But I have seen shows that have MB/Islamist only guests, as well as MB/Islamists and opposition together. Again: never opposition only.
4- A lot of effort is going into pumping up Morsi's image.

Add to that the fact that the paper version of the Arabic Al-Ahram has become - once more - a useless piece of propaganda with almost no useful or objective journalistic content.

Back to TV. Some have been voicing their concerns. Recently, a very notable example, Hala Fahmy a State TV Presenter held a burial shroud on air against what she claimed was the bias of State TV against the opposition and its intentional omission of their news.

Another interesting moment was when another State TV presenter (and former presidential candidate, and current opposition member) Bothaina Kamel broke the script for a couple of seconds during the news broadcast to say "and we're still with the Ikhwani news broadcast," adding the word "ikhwani" to the regular segue line.

Some might argue that the claims against the bias of state media are exaggerated, some argue they are under-estimated. One thing for sure. This is not a sufficiently objective, unbiased and professional news operation to me.


Egyptian Journalist and TV Presenter Shahira Amin, who was widely lauded for quitting State TV during the revolution due to its bias in the coverage of the events (then returning to the institution after the revolution), has just kindly posted her take on the subject in the comment section below. Shahira is of course a well recognised name in TV journalism, and she most recently interviewed President Morsi during the constitutional declaration crisis. I am sharing her comment here:

"Dear Bassem, you know that I quit the" propaganda machine" early on in the Revolution in protest at State TV's coverage of the uprising. I returned a few months after the revolution but am only producing a weekly show "In The Hot Seat" on Nile TV. I am no longer Deputy Head of the channel as I was before. I can tell you that the bias comes from the anchors, presenters and editors themselves.Some are scared and practice self censorship to keep their jobs .I can assure you that restrictions today are far fewer than the ones during the Mubarak era. The only instruction that's been given is that if we host an opposition figure, we should host a MB figure to have a more balanced picture (which is fair enough). Since my return, I have broken the story on the virginity tests on my show, I have also been able to host Alber Saber and cover his case (he got a 3year jail sentence for blasphemy.) I have also hosted Maher el Gohary, the Muslim convert to Christianity. When I covered Maher's story for CNN in 2010, I was blacklisted by the Mubarak government and was no longer allowed to cover presidential activities. While I do not agree to having a Minister of Information (as that can only mean govt propaganda) I really believe that it is the anchors and presenters that should change .I salute Bothaina and Hala for their courage . They are role models for others to follow."
Thank you Shahira for your take.

In case there are indeed no "blacklists" unlike the many reports, can we then see El-Baradei or Sabbahi on State TV? Let's see then.

Update: Shahira also added:

"I have not heard of a"blacklist" but it's possible that it does exist. However, it is El Baradei himself who refuses to appear on State TV. I interviewed him for a CNN story at a Sharm el Sheikh conference some years ago. A few months later I tried to get a soundbite from him at the Alexandria Library for a Nile TV story but he pushed the mic away, saying "I do not speak to State TV"! I was shocked and dismayed and sent him a written message to tell him so. He folded the paper and put it in his pocket. I do not blame him though . Mubarak regime loyalists in the media did all they can to tarnish his image in those days."

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