Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)
Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Liliane Dawoud: The full picture

ONTV talk show presenter Liliane Dawoud begins legal action in face of what she says is a campaign of defamation. Dina Ezzat reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

This week ONTV broadcaster Liliane Dawoud initiated legal action against a daily newspaper columnist, Mahmoud Al-Kardousi, and senior management at his paper, Al-Watan, for slander.

 “I thought about shrugging the matter off but then I reconsidered. I owe it not just to myself and my daughter but to the ethics of decent journalism to take legal action against people who have clearly gone too far,” Dawoud told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The purpose of the lawsuit, says Dawoud, “is less about avenging a personal insult than drawing the line.”

In recent weeks Dawoud has come under attack from several broadcasters and commentators who have accused her of attacking the Al-Sisi regime. They are charges the presenter of the three-times-a-week talk show “The Full Picture” categorically denies.

 “I have never attacked anyone. To start with I never express my own views. I bring in commentators to seek clarification of current affairs. This is not about attacking people but discussing things and trying to bring alternative views to light,” she says.

When Dawoud did not cave in to her critics the campaign against her escalated. Some broadcasters began to demand ONTV owner Naguib Sawiris cancel her show. What, they asked, is someone who is originally Lebanese doing presenting a show on Egyptian television dealing with Egyptian current affairs?

When Sawiris failed to sack Dawoud, a commentator in an independent daily took matters further. He penned a column that Dawoud says is “full of slander, unacceptable violations into her private life and obnoxious insinuations against other colleagues.”

 “There is a growing trend amongst some journalists and TV broadcasters to try and promote themselves by attacking other journalists and broadcasters who dare to do their job the way it should be done, by asking questions rather than trumpeting their own opinions,” says Dawoud.

The role of the media, she adds, is to ask questions and present a “fully rounded picture of what is happening in current affairs.”

It is not a credo that seems to appeal to her detractors, that gaggle of commentators and broadcasters who appear to believe their job is to align themselves with the regime and denounce any figure involved in the 25 January Revolution as part of a foreign conspiracy against Egypt.

Such journalists, says Dawoud, are mistaken if they believe they are doing “any favours to the leadership.” She cites an interview with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi published in the London-based, Saudi-financed Al-Sharq Al-Awssat earlier in the week, in which Al-Sisi says that as the head of the executive he finds many statements made by press commentators and talk show presenters embarrassing.

Dawoud, who is married to an Egyptian, does not believe the attacks against her are because of her Lebanese origins.

 “I never felt a stranger in Egypt or alien to Egyptian affairs, even when I was working with [international Radio and TV channels],” she says.

 “That I am Lebanese was never an issue when I first appeared on Egyptian screens. Some then chose to fabricate a story saying I was a Jew. I have every respect for Arab Jews who stayed in their countries but the fact is I am not Jewish.”

The problem, she says, is her “firm support of the 25 January Revolution.”

 “This is what they take against me and have taken against other TV presenters. But I am not going to give up easily.”

The latest round of attacks against Dawoud appears to have been triggered by one of her tweets that expressed sympathy with leading figures of the January Revolution who had just been sentenced to five years in prison.

However virulent her detractors, Dawoud is heartened by the support she has received, not least under the hashtag “support Liliane Dawoud.”

 “Egypt has been a launch-pad for generations of Arab artists and journalists. It was here that two Lebanese journalists founded Al-Ahram and where Farid Al-Attrache and Asmhane made their fame,” she says. And it is a tradition she firmly believes has continued.

In a later tweet Dawoud expressed her gratitude for those who sided with her even though they disagree with her support for the revolution.

 “It was a difficult moment, in a sense, because I never expected to be subject of such a brutal attack in an Egyptian newspaper. But it also reinforced the feeling that the association with Egypt that I had chosen was not just welcomed but endorsed.”

Dawoud, a harsh critic of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, has not lost faith in 30 June though she notes the increasingly strident voices that have arisen since then to denounce the 25 January.

 “I never lost faith. We had to go through 30 June and even though I worry about freedoms and liberties I know 30 June was about saving the heart of the Arab world from falling to the rule of fanaticism. Had Egypt fallen, all the countries of the Arab world would have followed,” she says.

Dawoud’s contract has still six months to run, during which she intends to “do my work in exactly the way I have been doing it.”

She continues, “I’m not planning to take a break from current affairs. I will continue to ask the questions I have to ask. I will continue to talk the way I do, look the way I do, be the person I am: a woman who subscribes to the Left, born in Lebanon [but] who has chosen be associated with Egypt for the rest of her life.”

The space of freedom, she agrees, could go up and down and the character assassination may continue: the one thing of which she is sure, though, is that the fight for the goals of 25 January must continue.

 “I think we were carried away with euphoria on 11 February [2011], when Mubarak stepped down. We overlooked the whole network of interest groups that would try to undermine the hopes that 25 January brought Egypt.”

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