← Back to portfolio
Published on February 17, 2011

Status update: good morning Egypt!

"Lies Exclusive on Egyptian TV", a slogan carried by protesters in Tahrir Square, sums up the widespread perception that state TV and state-funded newspapers served simply as tools of the regime.
The official media, says Mehrez Ghali, a professor of mass communications at Cairo University, always promoted state policies and followed the instructions of the regime. One casualty was honest reporting. The state-funded media consistently failed in playing the role of observer. "It deluded president Hosni Mubarak as well as the public, blanketing out the repressive practices of the authorities."
This week has seen some attempts to redress the balance. The official daily Al-Ahram issued a four-page daily supplement, Shabab Al-Tahrir, presented, so the front page of the paper said, as a gift to the 25 January youth. It contained stories hailing the 25 January Revolution alongside emotive memorials of its martyrs.
The supplement's editor, Mohamed El-Barghouti, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Shabab Al-Tahrir was a result of the general anger in the editorial hall at the way the revolution was being covered in the newspaper. A group of journalists came up with the idea in discussion with the chairman of the board, Abdel-Moneim Said.
"Changes in Al-Ahram 's editorial policy came hand in hand with the production of the supplement. The banner of the newspaper used the word 'revolution' for the first time on Tuesday 9 February, the day we issued the supplement," said El-Barghouti.
The shifting editorial line of Al-Ahram was very clear on Saturday when the day's issue appeared with a red banner, 'The people sacked the regime'. The contrast with the previous Wednesday, when the paper led with then vice president Omar Suleiman saying "Egypt between two options, either dialogue or a coup", could not have been more marked.
The official daily Al-Akhbar also issued a documentary supplement on Sunday. On the front page of its main edition it ran a story on a rumoured argument between Hosni Mubarak's two sons, with the elder, Alaa, blaming the younger, Gamal, for promoting policies that led to their father's overthrow.
Ghali is happy with the 180-degree shift in coverage of the media, though he is dismayed it did not occur earlier. It would have shown courage, he says, and a commitment to journalistic ethics to have tried some honest reporting before the collapse of the regime.
The same concerns have been expressed by journalists within the state-owned titles. At Al-Ahram a meeting was held to discuss whether or not to apologise for the coverage of the events following 25 January, with some arguing that a more constructive approach would be to provide more balanced reporting henceforth. The meeting also discussed editorial as well as administrative reform in the institution.
Workers in the Middle East News Agency (MENA) protested against their director and forced him to leave the agency.
Sate television has also embarked on a U-turn, issuing a statement on Saturday, one day after Mubarak had stepped down, apologising for its coverage of events.
While the resignation of minister of information Anas El-Fiqi is seen by many as a sign that a more balanced media may be about to emerge, few doubt that it will be difficult to eradicate the habits and legacy of decades of disinformation.
Ghali is optimistic that change is possible, and that the media will increasingly focus on the problems of the people.
"If the state media frees itself from bureaucracy and focuses on covering the problems of the people it will help build trust with the public. Certainly it possesses more experienced people than independent channels or papers, though it remains to be seen if it can really position itself at the service of the public."



0 Comments Add a Comment?

Add a comment
You can use markdown for links, quotes, bold, italics and lists. View a guide to Markdown

You will need to verify your email to approve this comment. All comments are moderated before publication.

Close